Graduate Studies


Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Barbara Y. LaCost. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Kimberley A. Rector


Dual enrollment programs offer options for high school students to sample college-level courses for which they receive both high school and college credit. In the past, these programs were mainly available to high-performing students who wanted to get ahead and could meet college entrance criteria. More and more, dual enrollment is becoming an opportunity for low-performing students. Research points to benefits for students including academic preparation, free tuition, and a smoother transition into college.

Early college programs, a newer approach to dual enrollment, most commonly offer entering ninth graders a challenging, yet supportive educational environment on a postsecondary campus with the expectation that students earn a significant amount of college credit up to completing an associate degree upon high school graduation.

The purpose of this study was to explore participants’ perceptions of the experience of borrowing the role of college student during their first year in an early college program and how those experiences might influence both educational persistence following graduation and cultural competence in the college process.

Overall, participants reported satisfaction with early college. They experienced a school community through activity in school-sponsored clubs, positive relationships with teachers, helping others, and feeling part of a group. Accomplishments related to completing a semester of early college and a dual credit class, achieving age-linked milestones, and helping out the community through activities. Participants were able to verbalize their thoughts on what college classes would be like and differences between their early college high school classes and the dual credit classes. They also described campus resources and what they had learned about the college process. While all three participants stated from the beginning that they intended to go to college after graduation, their language became more definite.

Recommendations for further research include an expanded sample representative of the program population in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and other attributes and the ability to follow participants from initial interest in the program through one year post-graduation.

Advisor: Barbara Y. LaCost