Although many studies have shown short term benefits to early childhood education, the long-term benefits have been less explored. A new study by William Gormley Jr. and colleagues found that children who had participated in the Tulsa universal Pre-K program in 2006 were 12% more likely to enroll in a 2-year or 4-year college. In particular, Black and Hispanic children who had attended the Pre-K program were more likely to enroll in 4-year institutions. Children who had participated in the Tulsa Head Start program were 7% more likely to enroll in any college or university, but these results were only slightly statistically significant.
The research team calculated propensity scores to compare the groups of children who did and did not attend the Pre-K program to account for other factors that may have influenced likelihood to enroll in college.
Tulsa’s universal Pre-K program is one of the oldest in the US. Teachers in the program have college degrees, are certified in early childhood education, and are paid similarly to public school teachers. Tulsa also has an effective system of magnet schools that students can attend on the journey from Pre-K to college. These factors may have made the impact of universal Pre-K on Tulsa’s children particularly long-lasting. However, since many studies have shown the increased earning power of having a 4-year college degree, 2-year degree, or even having completed some college credits without completing a degree program, the authors suggest that a strong universal pre-K program could possibly be a worthwhile investment.
Source (Open Access): Gormley, W. T., Amadon, S., Magnuson, K., Claessens, A., & Hummel-Price, D. (2023). Universal pre-K and college enrollment: Is there a link? AERA Open, 9, 23328584221147892. https://doi.org/10.1177/23328584221147893