High school students earning dozens of college credits through Vail Early College program

Tucson, AZ | Submitted by Raylee May

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With college tuition on the rise, students need ways to pursue higher education with as little debt as possible. And thanks to a partnership between Vail School District and Pima Community College (PCC), high school seniors are able to earn dozens of credits before they’ve even graduated from high school.

The Vail Early College program launched last year after legislative changes made the initiative possible. Students who apply in their junior year aren’t evaluated based on grades, but on whether they’re a good fit for the rigorous program. It requires a personal statement and letter of recommendation. After which youth are interviewed to learn more about why they want to participate.

To ensure they have a realistic college experience, students attend mainstream classes on Pima Community’s East Campus. To complete their high school diploma in tandem, Vail teachers provide a course on college success and high school civics. It’s a big change to go from high school to college campus, so the Vail team keeps in close contact. From helping students find tutors to navigating common setbacks, Vail helps to keep each pupil on track.

And their efforts are paying off in a big way. With 45 students currently enrolled and one third first generation college-goers, it’s sure to impact Arizona’s post-secondary enrollment rate. The Arizona Education Progress Meter has a goal of increasing this to 70 percent by the year 2030. Vail Early College students are able to experience real college life, and their own success in these courses. So far, 90 percent of courses are complete, which is far higher than typical college freshman completion.

Of the last cohort, 90 percent continued on to college, most at a 4-year university. They carried an average of 26 transferable college credits, in addition to their high school diploma. The average GPA was 3.27. The partnership is providing them opportunities that are invaluable and life preparation that will mean higher wages and more stable employment, not to mention the many benefits to the community.

 

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