Academic Affairs and Policy

Academic Affairs Division

Early College

GCSU teacher candidate works with Georgia College Early College students

The Georgia Early College Initiative is an intervention strategy for students who may not be well served by traditional middle and high schools, and are underrepresented on college campuses: Low Income, Minority (with an emphasis on minority males), First Generation College, and Struggling Learners. The Early College sites are small schools where students can earn a high school diploma with the potential to earn an associate degree, or one to two years of transferable credit towards a bachelor’s degree. Each site is a partnership between a local school system and a University System of Georgia institution. The schools provide a rigorous course of study, high expectations and supportive, personalized learning. They incorporate effective instructional and structural practices, while building a college-going culture of success. All schools in the Initiative strive to remove the financial, academic, and psychological hurdles that prevent too many students from entering and succeeding in college.

The Goals of Early College

  • Goal 1: To increase college readiness and college success of high school graduates traditionally underserved in Georgia.
  • Goal 2: To develop and test model programs for young people, in middle and high school, that get better results, are more coherent and less duplicative, and make possible a shorter time to complete an associate degree or two years of college.
  • Goal 3: To study the effectiveness of the Early College model for reducing the high school dropout rate, increasing the college admission and college success rate of students.
  • Goal 4: To replicate throughout Georgia the successes of the Early College Initiative.

Carver Early College graduates

Georgia’s Early Colleges

Albany Early College – Albany
Partners: Dougherty County Schools & Albany State University

Carver Early College – Atlanta
Partners: Atlanta Public Schools & Georgia State University

DeKalb Early College Academy (DECA) – Decatur
Partners: Georgia Perimeter College & DeKalb County School System

Early College Academy of Columbus (ECAC) – Columbus
Partners: Columbus State University & Muscogee County School District

Engineering Early College @ Maynard Jackson – Atlanta
Partners: Atlanta Public Schools & Atlanta Metropolitan College

Georgia College Early College (GCEC) – Milledgeville
Partners: Georgia College and State University, Putnam County Schools, Baldwin County Schools and Oconee RESA

Savannah Early College – Savannah
Partners: Savannah State University, Savannah Technical College and Savannah-Chatham Public School System

SCS-GSW Early College – Americus
Partners: Georgia Southwestern State University & Sumter County School System

Valdosta Early College Academy (VECA) – Valdosta
Partners: Valdosta City Schools & Valdosta State University

Washington Early College - Atlanta
Partners: Atlanta Public Schools and Georgia State University


  • Total Enrollment: 2,170 students (Summer 2011)
  • Low Income Population: 78%
  • Minority Population: 86%
  • First Generation Population: 77%

School Models

School models are individualized by the participating school districts and higher education partners to facilitate flexibility in determining the best use of available resources to serve targeted populations. The current models are as follows:

  • 6-12 models: 1 school
  • 7-12 models: 3 schools
  • 9-12 models: 6 schools
  • Located on-campus: 2 schools
  • Located in an independent facility: 4 schools
  • Located as a school within another school’s facility: 4 schools

Funding for the Initiative

In 2004, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $2 million, five-year grant to the University System of Georgia to support the start-up of six Early College schools. The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation provided matching annual funding of $2 million for three years. Since its inception, the program also has received in-kind contributions from the University System as well as the individual sites college and community partners; and ACCEL/Hope funds have paid for college tuition for students taking dual enrollment courses on the college campus. In 2007, the University System of Georgia allocated an additional $1.2 million per year to open six additional Early Colleges in Fall 2008. Currently, there are eleven Early College sites.

Demonstrated Success

The first Early College in the State of Georgia opened in August 2005, and produced the first Early College graduating class in May 2009. Many Early College students fall into the category of struggling learners when they apply to Early College; however, data indicates that Early College students often outscore peers on system-level and state assessments (CRCT, EOCT, HSGT, etc.).

Other Key Indicators & Milestones

  • First graduating class in 2009: Carver Early College, with 79 graduates and a graduation rate of 100 percent.
  • 100% of Early College stand-along schools achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) vs. 77% AYP for State of Georgia
  • Three schools receiving Governor’s Office Single Statewide Accountability System Awards for two years in a row
  • 90% Early College high school graduation rate vs. 81% State of Georgia high school graduation rate
  • 90% postsecondary enrollment rate among Early College graduates