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Letter to the editor: There is a good early-college program close to home

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:01 am

Early College High School Week focuses on the successes of students at early-college high schools and is sponsored by Jobs for the Future.

Originating from the school-to -work movement, Jobs for the Future oversees the Early College Initiative that supports accelerated learning experiences for all students. The early-college experience has been shown to increase high school graduation rates and college readiness among students who are the least likely to attend college.

There are 280 early colleges in 32 states, and they will serve any student, but predominantly they serve students of color and those with fewer financial resources, enabling them to attend college while still in high school. This early-college experience is a collaboration between a university, a high school and a community. Some of the remarkable results of this type of collaboration include, but is not limited to, 94 percent of graduates earn at least some college credits, and 71 percent of graduates end up enrolling in college right after high school. And all this begins in high school!

Indiana has some catching up to do. College graduation rates are dismal, but even more alarming are the statistics for low-income and underrepresented groups. According to the recent Indiana Commission for Higher Education College Completion Report: “The gap in graduation rates for Indiana college students by race and ethnic groups is 24 percentage points at the state’s two-year colleges and 31 percentage points at Indiana four-year colleges.”

The longer it takes students to begin and continue their college education, the more it costs, and the less likely it is that they will graduate.

The good news is that students in Fort Wayne have an exceptional early-college program close to home – East Allen County Schools in collaboration with Vincennes University has formed East Allen University. Beginning as freshmen, students can save money, save time and prepare earlier to achieve an associate’s degree along with their high school diploma. As to cost, the tuition and fees are one-quarter as much as they are for attending Vincennes University and one-tenth the amount of attending another state institution for the same 60 college credits. Our current East Allen University students have earned over 1,300 credits hours only within its second year of existence.

The Vincennes University early college programs are successful because they hire an academic dean to oversee rigor of the curriculum, and they hire collegiate learning coaches, tutors and qualified high-school faculty to prepare students academically and socially for achieving their college credits. They provide quality dual-enrollment to more than 1,000 Indiana students and have more than five years of early college experience with seven Early College schools across the state and growing.

To learn more about East Allen University, please join us for an informational session and open house today at 6 p.m. at 6105 Wayne Trace. For more information, contact 446-0240. Let’s increase our student’s higher education completion rates by taking advantage of this local early college experience.

Odelet Nance, PhD