Emerging Trend: Pairing HS Diploma With Associate’s Degree

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An emerging trend in education may be worth exploring, one which encourages high school students to earn college credit even before receiving their diploma. A number of states and school districts are now offering college level classes at the high school level, a move which paves the way for some students to receive their high school diploma and an associates degree at the same time.

Texas Program Approved

High School GradsIn Texas, the Westwood Independent School District recently agreed to work with the Palestine Independent School District and Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC) to begin a program whereby students participate in what is known as the Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI). Together the three entities will apply for a $450,000 grant which will be awarded by the Texas Education Agency to launch the program.

Westwood hopes to shape its program to parallel one currently offered by the Athens Independent School District, which is in its second year of existence and serves at least fifty students. ECHSI is modeled on a national program, which was rolled out thanks to startup support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The national plan targets “at risk” high school students who are in lower socioeconomic levels and whose parents did not attend college. The Westwood program will welcome other students if the grant is successfully procured.

North Carolina Leads Nation

In North Carolina, the state leads the nation in the number of early college schools with 70 now in operation. A new state commission – Joining Our Businesses and Schools Commission – has been established which is designed to expand the state’s program while also aligning schools with high-in-demand jobs.

The upside for these types of programs is enormous as they allow students to complete their first two years of college often for free. Considering how expensive college is, families only need to cover the remaining two years of higher education should these students decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree. In addition, “early college” programs help students think independently and build up their confidence – important traits for 21st century workers.

Obama Initiative Follow Up

This past summer, President Obama proposed that the federal government spend $12 billion over the next ten years to encourage state educational reform efforts. Those effort include making sure that there are an additional five million community college graduates by 2020, a move which would better prepare graduates to secure jobs in a competitive global economy. Legislation is now working its way through Congress and may be voted on over the coming months.

Though “early college” programs are not for everyone – some advanced placement students will probably forgo the same in order to better their chances for getting into a select university – these programs are worth exploring, particularly if they help “at risk” students reach higher.

Resources

How Community Colleges Can Reach Obama’s Goals

NC lt. gov leads panel linking curricula, business

WISD moves closer to agreement

Photo Credit: Harrison Keely

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Categories: Education Tips