Administrators and employers often talk about the need to create smoother college to career pathways. Increasingly, those pathways start even earlier — in high school.
That’s been the case in New York, where some of the nation’s largest technology employers have teamed with local community colleges and K-12 schools to open several early college high school programs designed to funnel students into successful technology careers.
The early college model works by compressing the high school and college experience, giving students an opportunity to earn an associate degree in high-demand disciplines and get into the workforce faster.
The concept first garnered attention in the state with the growth of P-TECHs (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), a network of 16 different public-private partnerships between schools, colleges and employers.
One of the latest early college efforts, a partnership between Queensborough Community College (QCC) and software provider SAP, offers participating students access to everything from industry-designed curriculum and professional mentorships to potential employment after graduation.
The Business Technology Early College High School, which launched in September, includes 125 high school freshmen. Each student attends classes at a nearby high school allocated for early college students and each is assigned a personal mentor from SAP. Year one of the program includes high school courses only. In year two, participating students will take one college course at QCC, with more college courses intermingled in the third and fourth years of the program. The final two years of classes will take place entirely on the QCC campus. Students also complete a professional internship en route to degrees in such fields as computer information systems and Internet technology.
Program administrators recruited eighth-grade students at a series of open houses at local high schools and colleges. Students were selected based on the results of personal interviews and not based on academic merit, explains Denise Ward, interim vice president for pre-college, continuing education and workforce development at the college.
Ward says the interviews helped program administrators determine students’ personal commitment to the program, which is significant, considering it can take up to six years to complete.
The pay off
At the end of the six years, students will have earned both a high school diploma and their associate degree, all at a significantly reduced cost. If students choose to leave the program early, they can opt to finish their high school credits at any point.
In addition to earning a college degree, participating students get access to a targeted, industry-developed curriculum designed to prepare them for the unique challenges of the workforce, including both the technical and the interpersonal skills needed to succeed in their chose career field.
Does your college offer early high school programs? Tell us in the Comments.