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Early-college high schools, a form of dual enrollment in which high school students can earn a diploma and an associate degree or two years of college credits at the same time, has a positive, lasting impact on participants' enrollment and success in college, according to a new policy brief from the American Institutes of Research. The research also found a strong return on investments made in early colleges.

For example, one study found that 84 percent of early-college students enrolled in college, compared with 77 percent of their peers in a control group. And early-college students are more likely than their peers to earn a college degree, with 21 percent of participants in one study graduating with a bachelor's degree within four years, compared to 11 percent of control group students. Within six years, the gap closed to 30 percent for early-college participants and 25 percent for their peers.

Another study found an average increase of $33,709 in lifetime earnings for early-college participants.

“Our research shows that early colleges are an effective way to increase rates of college-going and college completion, and that the return on the investment in these programs is positive for both the student and society at large,” Kristina Zeiser, one of the lead AIR researchers on the project, said in a written statement. “As these programs grow across the country, our brief offers some considerations for policymakers and others who seek to improve outcomes for all students.”