A collective multiple case study regarding mandatory advising and degree mapping for Early College High School students.


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Early College High Schools (ECHS) began in 2002 in response to the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities, lower socioeconomic status, and first-time college students in higher education. Credit-bearing college courses replace students’ traditional high school classes, so the students earn an associate degree upon graduation from high school. The goal for ECHS participants is to continue their education at a university to complete their four-year degrees.

This qualitative multiple case study rooted in the practitioner inquiry tradition explored why ECHS students do not complete their bachelor’s degree, along with possible solutions to the existing problem. Specifically, this study examined if mandatory advising and degree mapping helped ECHS students feel more confident about their transfer to a four-year institution. The study employed Schlossberg’s Transition theory (Schlossberg, 2011), focusing on situation, self, support, and strategies. The framework helped to understand how mandatory advising and degree mapping influenced ECHS students’ confidence and preparedness to transfer to a four-year institution. Data collection involved using a questionnaire regarding the student’s perception of preparedness for transfer and possible barriers and issues that could inhibit them from completing their bachelor's degree. Themes emerged from the data, with the first theme being the need for a college advisor to complete advising and degree mapping sessions. The second theme included increasing the ECHS student’s sense of preparedness for transfer to a four-year institution. Next, a discussion around potential barriers that could impede their completion of bachelor’s degrees emerged. Lastly, financial literacy is needed to help ECHS students understand various forms of available aids to help finance their education.

This research is vital as more ECHSs open every year across the country. For example, in 2002, when ECHS launched, there were three ECHS programs (Berger et al., 2014). As of 2020, there were 170 ECHSs in Texas, 100 in North Carolina, 100 in Michigan, and many more across the United States (Arshavsky, 2020). Thus, the ECHS program is expanding across the country exponentially, and the findings from this research can help more ECHS students have a successful transition to higher education and complete their bachelor's degrees.



Early College High Schools (ECHS). Early College High School students. Academic advising. Degree mapping. Transition to four-year institutions.