The Short-Term Postsecondary Returns to Early Graduation: Are They just for High-Achieving Students?
Patton, Jane Lillian
This paper explores the relationship between early graduation from high school and subsequent postsecondary enrolment choices among high school students of varying levels of achievement. Many studies have examined the impact on postsecondary performance of high-achieving students who graduated at least three months ahead of their high school cohort, but none examine middle- or low-achieving early graduates or the impact of early graduation on postsecondary enrolment decisions. The research uses data collected from young people between 2002 and 2006 to analyze their choices between one of three short-term postsecondary outcomes: just a high school completion certificate, enrolment in a 2-year program, or enrolment in a 4-year baccalaureate program. Controlling for personal attributes and factors such as 10th grade cumulative grade point average, high school certificate achievement, and parental education, the findings indicate that early graduation has a positive but non-significant effect only for high-achieving students. The impact of early graduation on postsecondary choices for middle- and low-achieving students is negative and significant, except for those students who earn a GED rather than a diploma. The research indicates that policymakers and administrators should approach policies on early graduation with caution, as they can prove to have negative impacts for underperforming students.
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