Offering incentives to high school students to complete their courses early is an idea popping up around the country. The Early High School Graduation Scholarship Program bill in the Missouri state legislature, for example, promises scholarships to students completing high school in less than four years. The bill, proposed by state Sen. Scott Rupp in January, was created in hopes of increasing student achievement, encouraging students to pursue college as an affordable option, and perhaps save the state’s school districts some revenue. States such as Arizona, Idaho and Utah have similar provisions, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels established the Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship program in the state’s 2012-2013 budget.
The amount of each scholarship differs by state. Indiana, for example, spends roughly $5,864 per student, according to the state’s Department of Education. That money will be redirected from the state toward their tuition, rather than to the district. While such scholarships are generally cost-neutral, according to a study released last August by Jobs for the Future (JFF), if early graduation scholarships cost less than the K12 allotments they replace, districts can save money. “The most important consequence of this is getting low-income and underrepresented students access to college opportunities,” says Diane Ward, director of state education policy for JFF. Ward encourages lawmakers evaluating early graduation incentives to consider the following: Students graduating early meet the same or higher competencies as their peers who graduate in four years, such students are ready to start college without remediation, and low-income students are targeted with strategies to complete college-level courework in high school.