Early College Option: Good, Or Bad?

by blackspanielgallery

The Early College Option is for high school students to concurrently finish an Associates Degree. There are both good and bad aspects of doing this.

The Early College Option is a somewhat new idea that came about several years back. It was pushed from Washington, which made it suspect of value. So, what exactly is the Early College Option?

The Early College Option is a plan whereby a student completes high school, and at the same time completes the requirements for a college associates degree.

On the surface this looks good, but is it really of value? It is a program with positives and negatives. They must be weighed against each other.

Before the Early College Option

Earning College Credit While in High School

Before the Early College Option came about there were ways a student could get a fast start in college by skipping courses. 


One method of skipping courses was through a placement exam, which is extensively used in mathematics and English.  If a student is proficient in a subject, the student can simply start at the next level.


Similar to the placement exam was a proficiency exam.  The student would request an exam which is equivalent to the final exam in a course, and if the exam is passed the student not only places past the course, but the student is given credit in the course.  This is different from a placement exam, since the student is awarded college credit for the course.  In the placement exam the student still must complete the same number of college hours, so effectively the student replaces a required course with an elective.


Advanced Placement (AP) courses are high school courses taught by a teacher who is also qualified to teach at the college level, and the course is at the rigor of a college course.  This allows a student to get both high school and college credit for the course, subject to a college accepting the course.


Finally, some high school seniors, and a few juniors, have taken enough high school courses as to free up enough time to attend one or two college courses per semester.


All of these are generally reserved for the brightest students, and usually result is just a few, at most, college courses being skipped by any given student.


These are all viable options with positive results.  There is no need to make changes. 

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The Early College Option Details

The Early College Option is a program whereby through Advanced Placement courses and college courses the student obtains sixty college hours before completing high school.  The student is given an Associates Degree and becomes a college junior.


All of the college courses are also counted as high school courses, so the student is essentially counting courses twice. 

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The Pros

The student gets a sixty hour start in college.  The degree the student presents is valid, so the universities and colleges often accept it.


Apparently, this is an international effort that was picked up by the United States.  There must be some redeeming factors if done correctly, but my experience is with a program that came into existence in a forced manner and fell somewhat short of expectations.

The Cons

The student gets a sixty hour start in college.  Universities and colleges do not teach junior and senior courses at the same level as freshman and sophomore courses.  More is demanded of the students.  The demands require more than having passed courses, they require a maturity that comes during the first two years of college. 


Another problem is that every course helps a student gain general knowledge, and hone study skills.  By counting sixty hours twice the student has much less opportunity to hone study skills. 


As an analogy, would anyone take a person who has just learned to drive the month before and allow that person to drive in a NASCAR race?


Another problem is low grades can impact scholarship opportunities, and a low average can prevent the students from transferring to the universities of their choice.


The students who are good enough to get past these hurtles may find a useful program in the concept, but for many others it may be better to avoid the program.

The Local Case

The high school was supposed to recruit the more advanced students at its inception.  Unfortunately, the problem of lack of interest from the community made it necessary to open the recruitment to all, or there would have been too few students to make the practice economical.  Now, it has become expected that the admission be open to all, so even as more advanced students apply to the program they are not necessarily the ones getting into the program.


The high school students take courses with the college students in their final two years.  In the early years they fully populate classrooms, even if the course carries college credit.  So, in their third year they are suddenly placed in classrooms with college students.


I doubt all programs have all of these problems, or the concept would not have been introduced.

Combining with Online :Earning

Adding E-Learning Challenges

Now, high schools are joining the movement to online teaching.  Online courses work for well disciplined students, but how many high school students are at that level of self-discipline?  As high schools add online courses, and in this state we have two fully online high schools, what would happen if they wished to have the Early College Option?  Well, at least one of them has gone to that extent.  Combining the challenges of online and Early College is to place a high demand on the student.  If successful in both aspects, the rewards are great, but failure in either is problematic.


While it seems good on the surface, there are difficulties that must be considered.  So why would anyone send a child to college four years early?  If the Early College Option is housed in a college, and many of the high schools in this area are failing to adequately educate the students, it can be a way for a parent to avoid inferior high schools.


As with many new ideas, there is a valid point to both sides of the issue.  There are good aspects, and there is a danger of bad consequences.


The older methods of getting college credit early are established, and work well.  The real question is will a given student fare better with the Early College Option over other options.  This must be done on a case by case basis.


The introductory image is my own Z

azzle product. 

This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Updated: 06/14/2019, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 06/17/2019

I have not seen the program provide value enough to offset the negatives. It seems to be an idea that does not really work, at least to me.

Mira on 06/17/2019

My understanding is that colleges in the US are under much pressure to change. Some of it may be good, with more business courses, for instance, but what's lost, especially with what you describe here, is the chance to get a four-year rounded education. I'm immensely grateful for my college years in the US, and do hope that future generations will have a chance to grow as people in college, given that everything in the world is accelerating so fast anyway. They'll have time later to go faster. College should be a time for analysis and reflection as well, and for exposure to many schools of thought.

blackspanielgallery on 06/15/2019

In the case of the college where I teach, it was forced to the point some of the students were not ready for the rigor but needed to have a critical number of participants. It was a pet project of an administrator. I tried to be fair and present both sides, but I am firmly against the concept. The first group to reach graduation started with 31, and only 20 graduated. An unacceptable attrition rate! Now we have a second group online. The students have no high school experience, since they come from several high schools. They must return to their home school for prom, graduation, and sports. They have few clubs, and lunch must be brought in using Styrofoam boxes, and eaten in classrooms by the first two grades. They disrupt college classes with noise At PE, and when coming back into the building. It is an ill conceived program.

I wanted to write this article for a long time, but feared repercussions. Now, I have a contract for one more year, after which I will be 73, and happily retire. Any fear has gone away.

frankbeswick on 06/15/2019

I believe that a degree is not just about subject mastery, but that it involves a period where you can mature while you learn. Thus a speedy, crammed degree does not provide this maturation period.I have therefore never believed that rushing through a degree like this is beneficial.

blackspanielgallery on 06/14/2019

I know they are fully online, and one is more than a high school, it starts at kindergarten. I am aware of this since the college where I teach is involved with Early College for one of them.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/14/2019

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the practicalities and products. You indicate that "in this state we have two fully online high schools." What is involved in such an arrangement? Is it that all interactions are online or is there an arrangement for regular meetings at the schools in question? How is the space that would be devoted to classrooms being used?

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