- East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, lets students who pass a qualifying exam and are enrolled in an early college program take up to two 80-minute college classes after the school day, helping them gain free college credits before they even graduate high school, Chalkbeat reports.
- The program, which is operated in partnership with a local community college, covers the cost of transportation, books and tuition for high school students and includes a required college success seminar that helps students prepare for the realities of college.
- Though the program requires a lot of hard work, students who go through the program enroll in college after graduation at higher rates, have smoother transitions and graduate from college at higher rates than students who do not go through the program.
The K-12 school experience is not the end of the road for most of today's students. Instead, it is part a continuum that spans into adulthood college and career pathways. District leaders who see K-12 education as part of a larger experience are better at looking for options that make the transition to the next phase of education easier and more successful for students, whether they pursue two-year degree programs, four-year degree programs, or career and technical training pathways.
Community colleges are natural partners in this effort. Some states are promoting concepts such as early college high school programs that allow students to gain both a high school diploma and an associate degree over the course of a five-year high school experience.
Another option is North Carolina’s College and Career Promise program, which allows students who qualify academically to take college courses while in high school without being enrolled in a full early college high school program. These credits can usually substitute for similar high school credits, thus streamlining the process, and most are part of articulation agreements with state universities. As a result, students know the course will be accepted for college credit. With the state's support, the courses are free and don't place a burden on school districts.
Community colleges are also great partners when it comes to offering career and technical education (CTE) instruction, as they often have more resources in that area than schools can afford. Partnerships with community colleges can also open access to more rigorous courses than some school districts can afford. These classes may be offered on community college campuses with the school district proving transportation, or they may be offered online or with the high school itself serving as a satellite location for instruction.
Financially, these arrangements can often benefit community colleges, which can justify hiring more employees and often see the benefit of increased enrollment after high school. It can also benefit school districts by allowing them to offer more competitive options for students and parents who may be leaning toward charter school, private school or home school enrollment. Students benefit, in any case, from greater support in college transition, lower college costs because of credits earned and greater scholarship opportunities. For many students, programs such as this make the difference between being able to attend and graduate from college or letting go of their post-graduate goals.