TCC and Union Public Schools Announce Joint Plans for an Early College High School Pilot Program

September 25, 2017

TCC and Union Public Schools have announced joint plans for an Early College High School pilot program, which will allow students to earn a high school diploma and associate degree simultaneously.

The Early College High School pilot program, which still needs approval from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, is expected to launch during the 2018-2019 academic year.

TCC President Leigh Goodson, Ph.D., and Union Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler jointly made the announcement of the partnership in at a news conference on Sept. 20.

“As the leader in Oklahoma with nearly 2,000 concurrent students, we believe this pilot will serve as a statewide model for how students can complete high school and college,” Goodson said. “We know from TCC’s numbers that students who take college courses while still in high school are more likely to graduate high school and earn a college degree.”

ECHS provides the opportunity for students to earn up to 60 college credits concurrently while attending Union High School and TCC. Students who complete the program will receive both an associate degree and a high school diploma upon graduation.

As the first Early College High School in Oklahoma, the program is expected to launch with an initial cohort of up to 60 students. There will be no cost to students enrolled in Union’s ECHS program.

The program targets primarily low-income, “first-generation” college students, said Mary Cantrell, associate professor of English and the George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair for Concurrent Enrollment.

“These are students who, research shows, are most likely to need the extra support to be successful in those early years,” Cantrell said.

Added Lissa Steadley, TCC’s director of concurrent enrollment programs: “That’s really what Early College High School is for, to reach into that first-generation student and get them started earlier, because if they graduate and haven’t really gotten started in college, they normally want come.”

Union is providing a “summer bridge” program in 2018 between the students’ freshman and sophomore year.

College entrance standards will remain the same for the Early College High School cohort, Steadley said.

“These students have to qualify for admission just like a junior or senior does,” she said. “Even though they are a year younger they are doing to be held to the same admission and enrollment standards as all college students.”

ECHS students will be taught by TCC professors and attend classes at the Union Collegiate Academy.

“The hope is that being in a familiar environment will help them meet the demands of college-level learning,” Cantrell said.

TCC already teaches about 17 sections of concurrent college classes each semester at the Union Collegiate Academy.

“It’s not unheard of for a student to get an associate degree at the completion of high school graduation,” Steadley said. “We have one or two every year; it’s just that it’s never been done in a cohort model of 50 at one time.”

There are several key outcomes expected from the ECHS program. Foremost is ensuring that more first-generation, low income students get a headstart start on college completion and be ready to transfer to a four-year institution or enter the workforce.

“A key outcome will be that more students attend, persist and graduate from college,” Cantrell said. “Having a more educated population also benefits our community in myriad ways, so this is another opportunity for TCC to fulfill our mission of improving the community.”