Our History

Bard has a 40-year history in early college education, dating back to 1979 when Bard assumed leadership of Simon’s Rock, the nation’s first private, residential early college.  This experience led Bard College President Leon Botstein to make the case for early college education in his 1997 book Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture. The 1999 Columbine High School massacre reignited a debate about how to better serve the American teenager through high school reform. Bard stepped into this conversation with a groundbreaking idea, made possible by the support of the New York City Department of Education under the leadership of Chancellor Harold Levy.

Manhattan, NY

Founded 2001
637 Students
Local Partner: New York City Department of Education
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Queens, NY

Founded 2008
653 Students
Local Partner: New York City Department of Education
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Newark, NJ

Founded 2011
408 Students
Local Partner: Newark Board of Education
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New Orleans, LA

Founded 2011
114 Students
Local Partner: Louisiana Department of Education
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Cleveland, OH

Founded 2014
445 Students
Local Partner: Cleveland Metropolitan School District
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Baltimore, MD

Founded 2015
413 Students
Local Partner: Baltimore City Public Schools
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Hudson Valley, NY

Founded 2017
25 Students
Local Partner: New York State BOCES
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Washington, D.C.

Founded 2019
266 Students
Local Partner: District of Columbia Public Schools
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  • 1979: Simon’s Rock becomes part of Bard College, inspiring Bard’s involvement and leadership in the early college movement
  • 2001: Bard High School Early College (BHSEC), designed by Bard and Simon’s Rock leadership, opens through a partnership with the New York City Department of Education 
  • 2008: BHSEC Queens opens through a second partnership with the New York City Department of Education 
  • 2011: BHSEC Newark opens through a partnership with the Newark Board of Education; Bard Early College New Orleans is established
  • 2014: BHSEC Cleveland opens through a partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District 
  • 2015: BHSEC Baltimore opens through a partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools
  • 2017: Bard Early College Hudson is established through a partnership with Hudson City School District and the New York State BOCES
  • 2019: BHSEC DC opens in partnership with the District of Columbia Public Schools
  • 2019 The Bard Sequence dual enrollment program is established

Committed to the mission of allowing students to accelerate their learning and achievement, the leadership of Bard College and Simon’s Rock partnered with the New York City Department of Education and national education foundations to create the first Bard High School Early College (BHSEC), now located in Manhattan, in 2001. BHSEC was among the first public early college high schools established in the country. 

The first decade of the Bard Early College was focused on launching and establishing one of the country’s first public early college high schools, our flagship campuses in New York City, followed by our campus in Newark, New Jersey. In its second decade, BEC expanded its campus network to five states and the District of Columbia. BEC also introduced new models and new approaches to early college and made public policy inroads to support early college education. In 2021, BEC will begin its third decade as a home for intellectually ambitious teenagers and will increase its policy impact at the local, state, and national levels. 

While hundreds of early colleges have been created around the country, Bard Early College remains unique. BEC is the country’s only multisite early college network, and a leading voice for access to the liberal arts for adolescents.

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