Description & History

CUNY Early College Initiative in New York City

Early college high schools are small public schools that offer a carefully integrated curriculum which allows students to graduate from high school having earned one to two years of transferable college credit–at no cost to themselves or their families. These schools are designed for low-income youth, first-generation college-goers, English language learners, and other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Early college high schools recognized that the students who are the least likely to achieve a postsecondary degree are most in need of early and engaging experiences with college, and that the opportunity to do challenging academic work, while saving time and money, can be a powerful motivator for students.

The ambitious designs of early college high schools require close collaboration between schools and college partners. Early college students take carefully selected college-credit courses as part of their regular curriculum. These courses are offered during the school day, and frequently are considered “dual credit,” meaning students earn high school as well as college credit for them. Schools are located near their partner college campus, and students in the upper grades travel regularly between high school and college settings. By making campus life and college-level work a part of every student’s high school experience, early college high schools eliminate financial, academic, and psychological hurdles that prevent too many students from entering and succeeding in college.


College Partner

2012-13 Enrollment

   Brooklyn College Academy

   Brooklyn College


   City College Academy of the Arts

   City College


   City Polytechnic High School

   New York City College of Technology


   Hostos Lincoln Academy

   Hostos Community College


   International High School at LaGuardia Community College

   LaGuardia Community College


   Kingsborough Early College Secondary School

   Kingsborough Community College


   Manhattan Hunter Science High School

   Hunter College


   Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College

   LaGuardia Community College


   Pathways in Technology Early College High school (P-TECH)

   New York City College of Technology


   Queens School of Inquiry

   Queens College


   Science, Technology and Research Early College High School

   Brooklyn College


   York Early College Academy

   York College






Total Enrollment


New York City has one of the highest concentrations of early college schools in the country. Today, about 6,000 students are enrolled in 12 early college schools, each of which is partnered with one of the undergraduate colleges at the City University of New York. The chart below lists the CUNY-affiliated early college schools, along with its college partner and current student enrollment. Many of these schools are still adding grades each year. At full capacity, this network will enroll roughly 6,500 students.                                                                                  


The results from the CUNY early college schools are promising. For example, nearly 40% of the students graduating from Hostos Lincoln Academy in the South Bronx in 2011 earned both a high school diploma and an associate degree. An additional 20% graduated with between one and two years of transferable college credit. Approximately 45% of these students entered 9th grade below grade-level proficiency in English and math, and roughly 45% were English Language Learners.

Over 75% of students currently enrolled in all CUNY early college schools are either Hispanic or African-American, and 69% qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. Between 2005 and 2009, approximately 2,300 early college students generated more than 8,700 course enrollments. On average, their success rate (a grade of C or better) in these courses was 78%. We believe that this level of accomplishment is a testament to the idea that redesigning many aspects of both the secondary and post-secondary experience can disrupt the ‘typical’ trajectory for low-income and minority students.

The most recent addition to CUNY’s early college network is P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School). This school was developed in close collaboration with an industry partner, IBM, thus adding an important layer to the ‘typical’ early college model. Students at P-TECH will have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma  and an associate degree in information technology, all while gaining important ‘real-life’ work experience through internships and apprenticeships. This model is known as a 9-14 College & Career Preparatory School because students will remain enrolled for two additional years in order to complete the program. Those who graduate with an associate degree will be first in line for high potential entry level positions at IBM and other area employers.

Over the next three years, CUNY, the New York City Department of Education, and industry partners will work together to develop a number of additional 9-14 schools, thus bringing the total number of schools to 15, with enrollment totaling more than 8,000 at full capacity.

About the organization

CUNY Early College Initiative

Brian Donnelly
Executive Director
Organization’s website: