It’s commencement season — and if you’re a community college dean or president, you know that few moments compare to handing students their hard-earned diplomas. For all the talk about completion and metrics, there is no finer validation of success than watching the members of your latest graduating class walk across the stage.
If it feels like that stage is a little more crowded this year, that’s because it probably is. Thanks to the growing popularity of dual-enrollment and early-college programs, in which teenage students can earn college credit while simultaneously working toward their high school diplomas, more than a few ambitious young people are graduating from high school and college in the same weekend.
At Arizona’s Paradise Valley Community College, 15-year-old Alexander Gilman earned four associate degrees when he walked across the stage with his fellow classmates earlier this month. On Thursday, he graduated again — this time, from high school.
He isn’t alone. According to Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing career opportunities for disadvantaged students, early-college high school programs are a good indicator of college success.
In Early College Expansion: Propelling Students to Postsecondary Success, at a School Near You, researchers found that 90 percent of early-college high school students nationwide go on to earn their high school diploma compared with just 75 percent of traditional high school students. What’s more, while still in high school, 94 percent of early-college students successfully earn college credits that can be applied to an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Another example of early college success is 16-year-old college graduate Grace Bush. Bush, who started taking courses at Florida’s Broward College at age 13, recently graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in criminal justice.
As one of nine children, Bush was encouraged to earn as many college credits in high school as she could to help save money.
“I went through the summers to get this done. It was a lot of hard work and concentration and dedication,” she told ABC News. Bush says she plans to earn a master’s degree and take the LSAT so that she can enroll in law school. See the full video: