Early college high schools gaining traction
10.27.2015 | By Rob Vanya
Dual credit programs at San Jacinto College are experiencing rapid growth, largely due to early college high schools (ECHS) that operate at all three campuses.
San Jacinto College has offered dual credit classes that enable students to concurrently earn high school and college credits since 1998. But ECHS is a relatively new and rapidly growing dual credit concept that enables students to begin earning college credit in the ninth grade, and to earn high school diplomas and college associate degrees concurrently as high school seniors.
San Jacinto College first opened an ECHS in 2007 at the South Campus with the launch of Clear Horizons Early College High School in partnership with Clear Creek ISD. In 2011, the College launched the Pasadena Early College High School at the Central Campus in partnership with Pasadena ISD. In 2012, the College launched Sheldon Early College High School in partnership with Sheldon ISD. The most recent program is the Galena Park Career and Technical Education Early College High School, which began operations at the North Campus in August 2015 in partnership with Galena Park ISD.
In addition to the four early college high schools, San Jacinto College operates two other dual credit programs that enable students to concurrently earn high school diplomas and college associate degrees – MECA (Modified Early College Academy), housed at the North Campus, and ACE (Accelerated College Education), housed at the Central Campus. MECA and ACE are two-year accelerated programs that begin the summer before the junior year of high school, in which qualifying high-achieving students take high school and college courses concurrently, and attend classes during the summer.
San Jacinto College’s total dual credit student enrollment (which includes MECA, ACE, and all ECHS programs) has grown steadily from the outset, and has particularly increased in the past five years. The district-wide 2011 dual credit enrollment was 2,471. The district-wide 2015 dual credit enrollment was 3,184, which is an increase of nearly 30 percent. According to the latest available data, dual credit students account for 10.7 percent of San Jacinto College’s total enrollment.
Dr. Pam Campbell, San Jacinto College assistant vice chancellor for educational partnerships, says early college high schools and accelerated dual credit programs like MECA and ACE are expanding at community colleges in many parts of the nation, and such partnerships open opportunities for students while improving communities.
“When we reach out with dual credit programs to make college possible for one student, we are also reaching out to an entire family, and by extension to an entire community,” Campbell commented. “We are finding that many of our early college high school students return to their communities after graduating from college because they want to live near friends and relatives. Their college credentials improve earning power, and consequently improve the overall quality of life for their communities.”
Alejandro Aguilar indeed has a bright future as a dual credit student at San Jacinto College’s Sheldon Early College High School. He will earn an associate degree in life science at the same time he earns a high school diploma next spring before transferring to the University of Houston as an 18-year-old junior at the university. He is weighing career options and may pursue either physical therapy, or any career that deals with developing wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources.
Aguilar jumped at the chance to attend the Sheldon Early College High School. “The early college high school program greatly reduces the college expenses, and it would otherwise be very hard for me to go to college without it,” he said.
He is the first in his family to attend college, and has a goal of improving his life through education. “I have two older brothers, one is 25 and one is 23,” he commented. “They are both smart, but have not been able to attend college, and I have seen how it has limited their opportunities. Taking college courses through high school has been difficult for me, and I have had to really apply myself and make sacrifices, but I know it all will be worth it in the end.”
To learn more about San Jacinto College dual credit options, please visit sanjac.edu/dual-credit.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.