Early College provides head start on college degrees

Posted on Feb 27, 2017 in Featured

Dr. John Hirano, (center) a Ph.D. in engineering, works with incoming Waipahu High freshmen in the first Early College STEM summer camp.

Early College is an innovation that works. That seems to be the takeaway, based on success stories, data points and, most of all, the heartfelt words of the students in the program and their proud parents.  They call the program “life-changing” because it offers students a way to save money on college courses and build confidence while they’re still in high school.

The track record for Hawai‘i’s Early College is impressive — especially for economically disadvantaged students. In the program, high school students can earn tuition-free credits toward college degrees in classes offered on their campuses. According to the Hawai‘i P-20 office, some 34 high schools and charter schools statewide offer Early College classes.

The numbers from the Class of 2015 show Early College can narrow the college gap for economically challenged graduates. In this and other “dual credit” programs, the numbers show that taking college courses while still in high school means more students are going on to college at much higher rates — 81 percent compared to 53 percent.

But the real story is the students whose lives have been changed because they’ve proved to themselves and their families that they can succeed in college and have an impact on their own and the state’s future.

Rovy Dipaysa (left) with her mom and governor.

“I used to be scared to speak,” said Rovy Dipaysa, a junior at Waipahu High School and an immigrant who came to Hawai‘i in 2012. “After taking my first Early College class, it boosted my GPA and gave me confidence I can do this.” Rovy and 13 of her classmates — the first Early College “Olympians” — anticipate receiving their Associate in Arts degree from Leeward Community College in May 2018 before they graduate from high school. Rovy said she plans to go straight to UH West O‘ahu to major in hospital administration.

Raising the college-going rate for high school graduates is a priority for the governor to set young people on a path to higher-wage jobs. In his amended budget, he’s recommending $6 million for Early College. “That kind of success is why I want to expand Early College to eventually include every public high school in the state,” Gov. Ige said in his State of the State address.

 

Read more in our March issue.