Nationally, early college high schools are public schools in which postsecondary pathways are embedded within the curriculum and students earn substantial college credits up to an associate’s degree, at no cost to students or their families. Research shows that these programs offer an on-ramp to college and the workforce and significantly increase rates of postsecondary success, particularly for students from low-income and historically underrepresented backgrounds. Bard’s approach to early college education is rooted in its tradition as a college of the liberal arts and sciences and its public interest commitment.

Bard Early College is a network of tuition-free satellite campuses of Bard College serving high school-age students. Bard Early College offers public high school students a tuition-free college course of study in the liberal arts and sciences up to an associate in arts degree concurrently with their high school program. Bard Early College offers students an engaging secondary school education and a significant academic and financial head start on their college degrees. Bard Early College includes freestanding, degree-granting campuses and partnership programs through which students can earn up to one year of transferable college credits in the liberal arts aligned to Bard’s academic mission. Bard High School Early College, the signature Bard Early College campus model, begins in the 9th grade and provides a high school and college program.

Bard is one of the country’s leading institutions in bringing liberal education to populations with limited access. The College does this through its programming for the working poor, in public school systems, for incarcerated individuals, and through its international campus network. For more information, visit the Bard Center for Civic Engagement http://cce.bard.edu/

Bard has a 40-year history in early college education, including 20 years in the public sector. For more information, visit our history.

Manhattan, NY (est. 2001)
Queens, NY (est. 2008)
Newark, NJ (est. 2011)
New Orleans, LA (est. 2011)
Cleveland, OH (est. 2014)
Baltimore, MD (est. 2015)
Hudson, NY (est. 2017)
Washington, DC (est. 2019)
Bard Sequence

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.

For more information on credit transfer, please reference our credit transfer page.

BEC is not designed as a feeder to Bard College. However, Bard is proud to offer enrollment pathways and support for BEC graduates interested in completing their bachelor’s degrees at Bard. Additionally, each Bard Early College campus provides extensive support to students in continuing their college studies at institutions of higher education across the country and around the globe. For more information, visit ECO

Bard High School Early College campuses have a strong record of success in improving students’ postsecondary outcomes, including:

  • 73% of students entering the college program at BHSEC earn an AA degree within two years; 96% of students entering Year 2 of the college program successfully graduate from high school (Class of 2020)
  • 83% of BHSEC graduates enroll in four-year college after graduation (Class of 2018)
  • 80% of BHSEC alumni/ae in college earn a four-year degree within six years —well above the national average of 60% (Class of 2012)
  • 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, three out of 10 college-going BHSEC students who have enrolled in college have earned a four year degree in only three years.
  • Since 2003, Bard College has awarded 3,945 AA degrees to BHSEC students.

To learn more, visit our impact

No. While the Bard schools share some characteristics with charter schools, such as autonomy in hiring administrators and faculty, Bard High School Early Colleges operate as partnerships between Bard College and local public school systems. As colleges, the Bard High School Early Colleges do not use a lottery-based admissions process. 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.”

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 75% of Bard Early College students are students of color, half are first-generation college students, and the majority qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

While admissions varies by campus, all Bard Early College students are selected through an individual interview and faculty-created assessment process designed to gauge student interest and motivation to participate in the early college.

Bard Early College faculty 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 a commitment to teaching younger students. BEC full-time faculty obtain the appropriate certification to teach their high school courses. BEC faculty typically have a school system and Bard College title, and BEC supports its instructors as college faculty through professional development, research grants, and advancement opportunities.

Bard Early College campuses are accredited satellite campuses of Bard College. As such, they must maintain the level of academic rigor and inspired teaching that defines Bard.  Bard Early College faculty are hired through a national search process and are approved by the local leadership teams, with support from the Dean of the Early Colleges. Faculty are supported and trained in Bard Writing and Thinking practices and early college pedagogy. Faculty across Bard’s campuses collaborate on foundational courses.

Bard Early College faculty whose salaries come from the local school district partner can join the local teachers’ unions if they choose to do so; the vast majority do. 

Yes. Through a Memorandum of Understanding between Bard College and its local school system partners, each Bard Early College campus 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 Bard Early College model allows all enrolled students the opportunity to earn an associate in arts degree from Bard College, worth approximately 60 transferable credits, completely free of charge to students and their families. This saves students and their families up to two years of college tuition, fees, and related costs.  While there are additional costs of providing a college program in high school, Bard relies on funding from public and private sources to ensure that costs are not passed on to students and families. These additional costs 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.

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