Our History

Our History

Our Beginnings

Bard College joined the early college movement in 1979, when Bard assumed leadership of Simon’s Rock—the first private, residential early college. Committed to the mission of allowing motivated students from all backgrounds to accelerate their learning and achievement, the leadership of Bard College and Simon’s Rock partnered with the New York City Department of Education to create the first Bard High School Early College (BHSEC), now located in Manhattan, which opened in 2001. BHSEC is a public, four-year early college high school that adapts the mission and pedagogy of Simon’s Rock and Bard College to a public school setting and allows students to earn an associate in arts degree from Bard College as well as a high school diploma. This alternative to traditional high school is founded on the belief that many young people are ready and eager to do serious college work starting at age 16. Bard College President Leon Botstein first made the case for the idea of early college in his book Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture.

Growth of Our Network

In response to the rising demand for seats at BHSEC, and in order to make the BHSEC education accessible to students in more New York City neighborhoods, Bard partnered with the New York City Department of Education to create a second BHSEC campus in Queens. BHSEC Queens, located in Long Island City, New York, opened in 2008. In 2011, at the invitation of then mayor Cory Booker, Bard partnered with Newark Public Schools to open BHSEC Newark. That same year, Bard also established an early college campus in New Orleans, which adapted the BHSEC model to the particular needs of its local community.  In the fall of 2013, Bard launched an early college program in partnership with the Harlem Children’s Zone. BHSEC Cleveland opened in the fall of 2014, in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. In the fall of 2015, Bard opened a fifth Bard High School Early College in Baltimore, in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools. BHSEC Cleveland’s East Campus opened in the fall of 2017, providing an opportunity for even more of the city’s young people to get a head start on college. Bard will open a BHSEC in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2019 in partnership with D.C. Public Schools. Bard is grateful to all of its partners for their support in making the early colleges successful.


1966Simon’s Rock is founded.
Simon’s Rock was established by Elizabeth Blodgett Hall, making it the nation’s first early college. Simon’s Rock is a four-year, private residential liberal arts college that accepts students after 10th and 11th grades. Now in its 50th year, Simon’s Rock pioneered the idea of early college education.
1979Simon’s Rock joins Bard College.
Simon’s Rock becomes Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Bard College enters the early college movement.
2001Bard High School Early College Manhattan is founded.
After more than two decades of successful work at Simon’s Rock, Bard College is approached by the New York City Department of Education to create one of the nation’s first public early college high schools. Bard High School Early College Manhattan helped to set the stage for the rapid growth of tuition-free, public early colleges across America.
2007Bard High School Early College Queens is founded.
Following the success of BHSEC Manhattan, Bard opens a second early college campus in New York City. In doing so, Bard takes the first step toward turning the early college model into something replicable.
2009President Obama endorses the BHSECs.
In a speech to the NAACP, President Obama says: “We should also explore innovative approaches being pursued here in New York City; innovations like Bard High School Early College . . . that are challenging students to complete high school and earn a free associate’s degree or college credit in just four years.”
2011Bard High School Early College Newark is founded.
The Bard Early College network expands outside of New York City.
2011Bard Early College in New Orleans (BECNO) is founded.
A partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education, BECNO is Bard’s first Early College Center, which partners with a range of schools to offer college classes to 11th- and 12th-grade students at a central location.
2013Bard Early College at the Harlem Children’s Zone is founded.
The Early College Center model is brought to New York City through a partnership with the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy.
2014Bard High School Early College Cleveland is founded.
2015Bard High School Early College Baltimore is founded.
2016The Carnegie Corporation and Bard College Partner to establish the Bard Center for Early College.
This marks Bard’s first step toward sharing pedagogy and curricular resources with the broader education community.
2017Bard Early College Hudson opens.
Through the New York BOCES, Bard Early College Hudson offers part-time college study to students in Bard College’s own backyard.
2017BHSEC Cleveland East opens. 
Bard adds a second campus location in Cleveland.
2018Bard is approved to open a BHSEC in Washington, D.C.