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More High Schools Seniors Are Also Graduating with an Associate’s Degree

A growing number of high school graduates aren't just walking across the stage and receiving their high school diploma, they’re finishing with an associate’s degree too.

More high schools are offering students the opportunity to take college-level courses taught by college professors, in addition to their usual high school curriculum.

For students like Anthony Lloyd, the chance to kickstart his college education early and avoid costly student debt made perfect sense. "College is really expensive, and anything to chip away at the cost is really good," the 18-year-old graduate of Baltimore’s Bard High School said. Lloyd is one of Bard’s first graduating class that also earned their associate's degree during the four years of high school.

An associate’s degree at a community college or even online college can set students back thousands of dollars. By adopting associate’s degree programs into high school education, school officials say they’re not only helping their students avoid costly student debt, but preparing them for succeeding at a higher university level.

Fishers High School in Indianapolis has gone as far as developing a class schedule to better mimic a college course load and altering some its classrooms to mimic college classrooms with moveable desks and chairs. There’s even a campus-like wing where students can lounge on couches while they study or grab a coffee from a small cafe, separate from the cafeteria.

Fishers Principal Jason Urban says it’s about preparing them to thrive at the level of independence that can cause some college freshman to stumble. "Our students are struggling at the college level with confidence in their independence," Urban told The Indy Star. "We have to trust them to be young adults, to be responsible, to be productive. Sometimes they're not, and we have to correct that, but we are going to treat them with trust."

Wisconsin is trying out a pilot program at several school districts in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin for students who want to work in technology fields. Gov. Scott Walker said that Wisconsin is in need of professionals to meet IT job demands and the opportunity is the “perfect spot” to meet those demands. Students who meet the qualified academic criteria will be able to finish high school with one year of college credits already under their belt.

Anthony DeSalvo a recent high school graduate from Davenport, Iowa said at first he wasn't sure about getting out of his comfort zone and trying his school’s accelerated associate's degree program, but said in the end it was worth it. In the fall he’ll be attending the University of Iowa on a full scholarship to study engineering. “Two years of college for free, you can’t beat that,” DeSalvo said.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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