The Bard Early Colleges offer public high school students a tuition-free college course of study in the liberal arts and sciences concurrently with their high school program. The Bard Early Colleges offer students an excellent secondary school education and a significant academic and financial head start on their college degrees. The Bard High School Early Colleges (BHSECs) in Manhattan, New York (established 2001); Queens, New York (established 2008); Newark, New Jersey (established 2011); Cleveland, Ohio (established 2014); Baltimore, Maryland (established 2015); and Washington, D.C. (established 2019) are four-year, freestanding early college high schools operated as a partnership between Bard College and the local school district. The BHSECs allow students to earn 60 transferable college credits and a Bard College associate in arts (AA) degree concurrently with a high school diploma. These schools are designated as public high schools and accredited as branch campuses of Bard College. Bard also operates Early College Centers in New Orleans, Louisiana and Hudson, New York, which provide students from a region or network of schools the opportunity to earn one year of Bard College credit concurrently with a high school diploma.
Unlike most early colleges, the four-year Bard High School Early Colleges (which start in 9th grade) provide both the high school and college education in one building, with a unified, college-credentialed faculty teaching both high school classes (in 9th and 10th grades) and college courses (in place of 11th and 12th grades). This model allows BHSEC faculty and staff to work intensively with students to ensure that they are prepared to succeed in the early college program and beyond. Students enter in 9th grade and, after two years of a college preparatory high school sequence taught by college faculty, take a full college course of study in liberal arts and sciences in what would otherwise be 11th and 12th grade. The college program culminates in an associate in arts (AA) degree from Bard College.
Bard College has long been a strong leader in early college education beginning in 1979, when it assumed leadership of Simon’s Rock: The Early College, the first residential early college in the country. Bard opened one of the first tuition-free early colleges in the nation in 2001 in New York City: Bard High School Early College. Bard continues to be a leader in the early college movement today, and its students achieve fantastic results:
83% associate’s degree completion at the Bard High School Early Colleges (Class of 2018)
Over 85% four-year college enrollment (Class of 2016)
91% college persistence rate (2018)
97% BA/BS degree completion after graduation—well above the national average of 60% (Classes of 2005–09)
An independent, quasi-experimental study conducted by Metis Associates on the BHSECs in New York City found that BHSEC students are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete college than similar students who attend traditional public and selective public schools.
Bard Early College students can transfer their Bard College credits from the early college program to a four-year institution of higher education, reducing the time to degree completion and offering students significant monetary savings. In recent classes, approximately one third of BHSEC graduates have finished their bachelor’s degrees within three years
No. As colleges, the Bard High School Early Colleges cannot use a lottery-based admissions process. The Bard schools share many characteristics in common with charter schools, such as autonomy in hiring administrators and faculty. Operating as partnerships between Bard College and public school systems (e.g., New York City Department of Education, Newark Public Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Baltimore City Public Schools), the BHSECs are driven by local needs. Each BHSEC campus is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding between Bard College and the school system partner. In New York City, BHSEC is considered a “screened school”; in Newark, a “magnet school”; in Cleveland, a “new and innovative/portfolio school”; and, in Baltimore, a “contract school.” While the schools are freestanding campuses, BHSECs can be colocated.
Students at the Bard Early Colleges are intellectually curious and motivated to accept the challenge of pursuing a liberal arts college education after completing two years of high school, typically at the age of 16. Bard Early College students come from diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, and academic backgrounds that reflect the communities in which the schools are located. Approximately 74 percent of Bard Early College students are students of color, and the majority qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
All Bard Early College students are selected through an individual interview and faculty-created assessment process designed to gauge student interest and fit for the early college. There is typically much more student demand than available seats at the Bard Early Colleges.
BHSEC professors are scholars and practitioners with advanced graduate degrees (approximately 70 percent have PhDs or other terminal degrees) and higher education teaching experience in their fields of specialty. Bard Early College faculty members share a deep knowledge and passion for their subjects as well as an interest in teaching younger students. Bard faculty obtain the appropriate certification to teach their high school courses through an arrangement between Bard College and the school district and/or the state education department.
Bard Early Colleges are accredited satellite campuses of Bard College. As such, they must maintain the level of academic rigor and inspired teaching that defines Bard. To serve as Bard faculty, Bard Early College faculty, hired through a national search process, are approved by the local leadership teams, with support from the dean of the early colleges. Faculty are supported and intensively trained by the Institute for Writing and Thinking, a nationally renowned teacher-training center focused on writing-based pedagogy and strengthening the transition between high school and college, and faculty from the Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Program, and leadership of the Bard Early Colleges. Faculty across Bard’s campuses collaborate on foundational courses.
Yes. Through a Memorandum of Understanding between Bard College and its local school system partners, each Bard Early College shapes its curriculum, first and foremost, as a rigorous course of study in the liberal arts and sciences that meets Bard College requirements for a general education during the first two years of college. While students take local standardized assessments, those assessments do not drive the Bard curriculum or the material taught in the classroom; to the extent possible, state and local required assessments are given during the 9th and 10th grades so that they do not interfere with the associate in arts degree curriculum taught in the 11th and 12th grades. The academic program at the Bard Early Colleges is reviewed by the dean of the early colleges and a faculty oversight committee at Bard College.
The additional costs of providing a college program in high school include professor salaries; student support services, including academic support and college advising; college textbooks; science equipment for college-level laboratory courses; library resources; and support from Bard College. In order to provide writing- and laboratory-intensive seminar classes that are the equivalent of those offered by Bard College, Bard’s early college classes have 20 students on average and no more than 25 students. The small class sizes help younger students succeed in the college courses, as do the academic tutoring and college counseling supports. Bard relies on funding from public and private sources to ensure that these costs are not passed on to students and families.