Wednesday, March 01, 2017

After Early College

After Early College, then what?

Early College High School programs are growing quickly.  They involve partnerships between colleges -- usually community colleges -- and high schools by which high school students take college classes for that count for both high school and college credit.  Depending on the design, students can graduate with an associate’s degree when they graduate with the high school diploma.

The newly minted grad -- probably 17 or 18 years old -- can start at many four-year colleges with “junior” academic status.  It’s a great way to reduce tuition and debt burdens.  Brookdale has several ECHS programs running in Monmouth County already, with several more slated to start this Fall.  

For low-income students, it’s a great way to bring a four-year degree within reach.  For high achieving high school students, it’s a great way to save money.  Transcripted college credits transfer much more reliably than, say, AP scores.  

But getting through the bachelor’s in two more years means hitting the world at age 19 or 20, and many students aren’t quite ready yet.  What to do?

The agreement among St. John Vianney High School, Brookdale Community College, and Georgian Court University strikes me as a prototype for what we will probably see much more of in the near future.  It’s a 2 plus 2 plus 2 model.  The student gets the associate’s degree from Brookdale while in high school.  She then spends four years at Georgian Court: the first two finishing the bachelor’s, and the next two getting the master’s.  She graduates with her master’s degree at the same age at which most of her friends are graduating with the bachelor’s.  

For certain students, I can see a real appeal to a program like this.  It allows for a four-year campus experience, which holds appeal both intrinsically and as a way to mature a bit before hitting the outside world.  She doesn’t have to start “adulting” any earlier than she otherwise would have, but she’ll start with a higher degree.  In many fields, that will set her up to start earning much more right out of the gate.

Even if she elects to go elsewhere for the master’s, she’ll likely be starting with only two years’ worth of loans.  To the extent that colleges make the pathways clear and easy, we can make non-profit higher ed the path of least resistance.  As Tressie McMillan Cottom notes in her new book, graduate education is where the for-profits have migrated.  This is a chance to short-circuit their efforts to recruit, while actually improving both access and loan balances for students.

From a parental perspective, I can absolutely see the appeal.  If you have several children to put through college, knocking off the cost of two years per kid makes a difference.  

Obviously, it’s a niche program.  It makes sense for, say, teacher education in a way that it might not make sense for sociology.  And it presumes that the prospective student is still in K-12; it doesn’t do anything for working adults.  

But as a way to help students position themselves to make adult salaries before starting families, I can absolutely see it.  

Wise and worldly readers who work at places that have arrangements like these: is there anything we should be sure to look out for?  Anything that falls under “if we knew then what we know now?”