Whether they're aiming for a bachelor's degree or skilled job, high school students benefit from tackling college courses, says Nodine. "Many high school students can gain valuable college knowledge and skills in workforce preparation programs." Students should look for the chance to earn vocational certificates that are "stackable"—used as steps toward a degree—and lead to "meaningful jobs with opportunities for advancement" through work or postsecondary education.
As college costs rise and employers demand more of new workers, the early college idea is gaining adherents.
Inspired by North Carolina, Maine is now considering five-year high schools with a focus on careers.
Joanne Jacobs writes Community College Spotlight for The Hechinger Report, an independent nonprofit education news site. Jacobs also blogs about K-12 education and is the author of Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds.