Early education ups college degree attainment for the poor

Four-year degrees 4.6 times more likely with pre-k schooling

Children from low-income families who participated in an early childhood education program were 4.6 times more likely to obtain a college degree than those without early childhood education, according to a study.

The Carolina Abecedarian Project, led by the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, followed a group of more than 100 participants born between 1972 and 1977 from childhood through early adulthood and found that 23 percent of the children who participated in a high-quality early childhood education program in the 1970s ultimately graduated from a four-year college or university.

Of those in the control group, which did not receive early childhood schooling, only 6 percent obtained a four-year degree.

While these findings suggest long-ranging benefits for early education research, funding for North Carolina’s award-winning More at Four pre-kindergarten program has been cut more than $10 million since 2008, and 346 pre-kindergarten teaching jobs have been lost, according to the N.C. State Board of Education.

Michael Tomsic, reporter with reesenews’ affiliate radio program Carolina Connection, sat down with Frances Campbell, senior scientist with the FPG Child Development Institute and principle investigator of the project’s follow-up studies, to talk about the findings:

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Less unemployed North Carolinians requiring fewer benefits may be one way early education can save the government money. The odds of being consistently employed were more than twice as high for those in the early-educated individuals, the study said.

The program participants worked full-time 75 percent of the time during the two years preceding the information being taken. Of those without early childhood education, 53 percent of the individuals worked full time, and they were six times more likely to receive public assistance or welfare for more than eight months during a seven-year period.

Unemployment in North Carolina rose to 9.8 percent with 440,022 unemployed in December 2011, according to a Feb. 1 report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. In 2011, North Carolina paid more than $3.7 billion in benefits to jobless citizens.

The state tops the U.S. unemployment rate of 8.5 percent of the workforce during the same month, according to a release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When companies begin hiring they may favor those with a college education.

The Abecedarian Project’s findings were published online with the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Developmental Psychology.

Related:

Unemployed and unqualified: Education cuts may leave NC workers without jobs || reesenews

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Carolina Connection airs Saturday at 8:30 a.m. on 1360 AM WCHL.

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