This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
If you could go to college for free, would you? Believe it or not, this is an opportunity that exists today in many cities, in schools that offer “early college” programs. GEO Foundation supports three of these schools and, while the schools are still very young, the results are terrific. These schools save time, money and increase the likelihood that students will finish high school AND complete college.
For the past four years, we have been graduating high school students who have earned as many as 60 college credits—equivalent to their associate degree. Most earn between 20 and 40 college credits (one full year of college) but a few work even harder and earn 60 college credits (two full years). When they do, they transfer to a four-year university as a junior in college.
The benefits of these programs are realized on all sides. Students are prepared for the rigor of college while they are still in high school; they learn that they are indeed capable of going to college and completing college; they receive staff support from their high school teachers while they are taking the college classes.
Saving Time and Money
Some students even choose to graduate early from high school. Given that college-level classes in early college programs are counted for both high school requirements AND college requirements, the length of time you need to stay in high school could be cut by as many as two full years. Indeed, we’ve had several students graduate at age 16 with all of their high school requirements completed AND as many as 36 college credits.
In addition to saving time, early college programs save students tons of money as well. Most colleges and universities cost $12,000 to $25,000 per year, depending on where you go. Why pay this for your freshman or sophomore year when an early college high school will pay it for you? Some schools, like ours, actually pay for your textbooks, too.
We mean business!
These programs help to improve students’ college success rates after graduation, too. Many—in fact, most—of our students complete college after leaving our high schools. This is extremely important and beneficial to our students.
I would encourage every student, no matter what your background or your family history, no matter if anyone in your family ever went to college (much less graduated from high school), to consider enrolling in an early college high school. These schools understand the importance of a high school diploma and, even more important, they understand the need for a college degree. They will help each student go the extra mile to earn both their high school diploma AND college credits.
Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or want to learn more about early college programs.