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Early College

Early college students at their desks in class.

About Early College

In North Carolina an early college is a public high school categorized as a Cooperative Innovative High School (CIHS). This unique educational model blends high school and college experiences in a smaller, more personalized environment. All courses are taught at the Honors Level, ensuring a rigorous academic experience. Designed to prepare students for both careers and higher education, early colleges offer the opportunity for students to complete a career certification or an associate degree alongside their high school diploma.

Originally, early colleges aimed to serve student populations that were less likely to attend college or post-secondary trade schools. Over time, their mission has expanded to include students seeking an accelerated academic track. The student body at early colleges is intended to reflect the demographic makeup of the surrounding community. Admission to an early college is selective, with an application process to ensure the program is a good fit for each student. 

Early College Provides Opportunities for: 

  • Students who would benefit from accelerated learning opportunities
  • First-generation college students
  • Those at risk of dropping out of high school

Demographics and Performance

Cooperative Innovative High Schools served 27,905 students (2018-19)

  • 95% have outperformed the state average cohort graduation rate. Many are at 100%.
  • 90% have met or exceeded growth.
  • 91% received A or B school performance grades.

Dare Early College Status

The NC Department of Public Instruction, NC State Board of Education, University of North Carolina System, and NC Community College Board of Directors have all approved Dare County Schools' application to open an early college in the district. Dare County Schools is working with Dare County government and the community to finalize campus construction plans and to reach an agreeable opening date. 

Early College Resources

Frequently Asked Questions