The Dayton Early College Academy was established in 2003 under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Early College High School Initiative, with support from the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation. DECA was opened as a Dayton Public School, the result of a partnership between the University of Dayton and the public school district. It was reorganized as a charter school in July 2007. DECA is located on the campus of the University of Dayton.
DECA was the first early college high school in the state of Ohio, tenth in the nation, and one of the five most innovative high schools according to the Northwest Evaluation Association.
With 425 students, the school today represents a unique partnership of the DECA Board, the Dayton Public Schools (as sponsor), the University of Dayton (as operator) and Sinclair Community College. DECA serves junior and senior high school students who are underrepresented in higher education, unprepared academically to meet college readiness standards, and unable to pay for college.