The growth of early intervention programs reflects America's commitment to high levels of educational attainment for all citizens. This commitment is embodied in the national ideal of equal educational opportunity without regard to social or economic status. Early intervention programs offer new hope to youth who are disproportionately "at risk" of inadequate educational attainment by providing financial assistance and encouragement to them, their families, and their communities. An important goal of early intervention is to facilitate a seamless transition from elementary to secondary to higher education. To reach this goal, educators at all levels must develop and implement coordinated policies and planning strategies. Early intervention is aided by funds from federal agencies, state agencies, local governments, and philanthropic organizations.
"Academic outreach" programs that originate in schools, colleges, and universities are a subset of the broader concept of early intervention. Academic outreach programs are differentiated from early intervention programs in that academic outreach programs are operated by academic institutions (although the source of funds and sponsor of the programs might be outside the institution). Although the distinctions between academic outreach and early intervention programs are imprecise, this distinction helps to identify the types of institutionally operated programs that can be directly affected by institutional faculty and administrators.
Academic outreach programs are similar in purpose to early intervention programs but are not always articulated or coordinated with them. The general purpose of most academic outreach programs is to encourage at-risk students to plan for college, with no focus on specific academic disciplines. Some academic outreach programs, however, focus on preparation and recruitment of promising at-risk students for selected academic disciplines. Academic outreach includes generally enhancing educational opportunity for underserved students within an institution's service area as well as increasing the number of at-risk students enrolled in specific academic disciplines. Thus, these programs are mutually beneficial to both underserved students and institutions of higher education.
A third type of approach to early intervention is the rapidly growing school-college collaboration movement, which involves systemic changes triggered by the reforms beginning in the early 1980s that attempt to close the traditional gap between K-12 and higher education. A new perspective, K-16, began to emerge in the 1980s in discussions of educational accountability. Early intervention programs that are built upon the collaborative efforts of K-12 and higher education institutions have gained momentum toward K-16 alliances. One of the most promising examples of such collaboration is the concept of "middle college," which melds the last two years of high school with the two years offered in public community colleges. Such alliances enhance the recruitment of minority students and increase the readiness of entering freshmen.
Faculty members and administrators of colleges and universities recognize the importance of support from the public, from elected officials, and from philanthropic organizations, made evident in the recent trend toward the development of state "report cards" for higher education systems. One of the most common components of report cards is the assessment of access to public higher education, especially for underrepresented students. Institutions must demonstrate increased access to their institutions and success in the retention of diverse students. Colleges and universities must marshal and refine their resources to achieve these outcomes. Many institutions rely on remedial education to increase enrollments of students from underserved populations, but in many states, governors, legislators, and governing boards have criticized the need for postsecondary remedial education. Perhaps early intervention and academic outreach programs will enhance students' readiness and diminish the need for remedial education.
Haycock, Kati, and Nevin Brown. 1993. "Higher Education and the Schools: A Call to Action and a Strategy for Change." Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education. ED 369 356. 12 pp. Levine, Arthur, and Jana Nidiffer. 1996. Beating the Odds: How the Poor Get to College. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mintz, Suzanne D. 1993. Sources: Diversity Initiatives in Higher Education. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.
Policy Studies Associates. 1996. Learning to Collaborate: Lessons from School-College Partnerships in the Excellence in Education Program. Miami: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Wilbur, Franklin P., and Leo M. Lambert, eds. 1996.Linking America's Schools and Colleges: Guide to Partnerships and National Directory. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education.
This ERIC digest is based on a full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report series Volume 25, Number 6, Early Intervention Programs: Opening the Door to Higher Education Robert H. Fenske, Christine A. Geranios, Jonathan E. Keller, and David E. Moore.