Early College Programs for “At Risk” Students
Early college programs used to only be available to affluent, overachieving students who needed a greater challenge than high school could provide. That, however, is changing.
70 schools in Raeford, N.C., a new early college program is being implemented.
A recent New York Times article brought the success of this new program to light. Students from SandHoke Early College High School, take the hour-long bus ride every morning to Sandhills Community College. Here, they attend college classes, blending with the upperclassman.
The early college program offered by their high school allows students to earn both their high school diploma and up to two years of college credits. The best part is–it’s completely free!
So when students are thinking ahead to what college is right for them, this early college program is a big factor in the decision process.
The idea is that by involving “at risk” students (such as in SandHoke–only enrolling students whose parents do not have college degrees) in an early college program, they will eliminate the divide between high school and college, minimizing the students’ probability to drop out.
And it’s working! Though not all students earn the full two years’ of college credits, few of them drop out. Additionally, the high school students are earning slightly better grades in their college classes than their older classmates.
Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project, said that “Last year, half our early-college high schools had zero dropouts, and that’s just unprecedented for North Carolina, where only 62 percent of our high school students graduate after four years.”
The success is catching on. This early college program model is spreading to other states –California, New York, and Texas are all hoping to use this as a means to decrease high school drop out rates. The cost of college continues to grow. And in this economy, who can afford not to take advantage of early college programs and squeeze two years of college in for free?