North Texas Daily

Early college high school students discuss challenges, advantages

Early college high school students discuss challenges, advantages

Early college high school students discuss challenges, advantages
April 19
15:29 2019

UNT is one of eight partner institutions of the Greater Texas Foundation, an organization that promotes greater access to higher education for Texans. Part of the partnership includes scholarships for students from early college high schools, which deliver a different kind of dual credit education than typical schools with the opportunity to earn at least an associate’s degree before they attend a different college.

Jacob Biedebach, graduate intern for TRiO, a need-based student assistance group, said ECHSs can foster a better and less time-consuming plan for giving higher education to disadvantaged groups.

“An early college high school is a program that provides no-cost college credit to some of the most at-risk populations in terms of college-going,” Biedebach said. “So this is first generation college students, low income college students, people who live in areas where there’s not a lot of college-going happening. That’s how it’s designed. That’s not necessarily who primarily uses it.”

Texas currently has 169 early college high schools, though Texas Education Agency records show 30 more ECHSs are in development as of the 2018-2019 school year.

The advent of ECHSs allows students like Daniela Ibarra, a media industry and critical studies graduate student, to achieve higher levels of education at a younger age. Ibarra is set to receive a master’s degree at age 21.

“Initially I didn’t want to go to [an early college high school], I wanted to go to a normal high school,” Ibarra said. “I’m glad that I did, because it prepared me for going to a real university. I learned some stuff back when I was 14 or 15. There were some people [at UNT] that didn’t necessarily know the things that I did.”

Ibarra said the liberal arts associate degree she earned at her ECHS covered many of the classes necessary to her degree, allowing her to finish undergraduate studies in “half the time” of the traditional path.

Mathematics junior Kailey Bolluyt shared the same appreciation for her early college high school, but noted the difference between classes held at a high school and a university.

“The classes I took in high school were more lenient, just because we were high schoolers and that’s how [the school] would treat us even if we were getting our college credit,” Bolluyt said. “Coming to UNT, a university, it was a lot more expected that you need to stay on top of your game. The professors aren’t going to track you down if you forget something.”

However, ECHS students may encounter multiple challenges at the beginning and end of their university career. Biedebach said ECHS students tend to lag behind other students at the start of their new college career, earning lower GPAs and struggling with time management during their first semester.

“Early college high school students typically struggle in their first semester,” Biedebach said. “UNT does a lot to fight that. It’s a difficult transition at the end of the day. A lot of early college high school students have 60 or more hours coming in. Imagine if you’re a biology major and you’ve taken all your basics already, and your first semester on a college campus as an 18-year-old is biology, organic chemistry, physics … it’s very difficult.”

Biedebach said that ECHS students could look for federally funded tutoring and on-campus resources like the Learning Center to mitigate some issues they may face while transitioning to UNT. The Greater Texas Foundation encourages their ECHS scholars to work on campus to help manage their time.

Texas state law penalizes students who take more than 30 hours over the required amount of hours to gain a specific degree. A typical associate’s degree consists of 60 hours of diverse coursework that covers basic classes for many degrees.

This may leave some students with associate degrees more at risk for exceeding hour requirements in certain fields that do not require some of the hours gained at an ECHS.

“There are certain programs that, due to course sequencing, take four years regardless,” Biedebach said. “So if a student wanted to do something that’s very technical like music, art or engineering, it’s going to take three to four years.”

Daniela Ibarra said a friend from her school felt pressured to change his education plan because of his associate’s degree and degree choice.

“One of the guys I went to high school with came in [to college] wanting to be a computer science major, but those credits didn’t really help him out with his basics,” Ibarra said. “His credits were for liberal arts but he was more science geared. A year into his school, he decided he wanted to do history instead. I think he said that his tuition costs [increased] as he went over hours.”

Despite struggles that ECHS students might face, Biedebach said early college high schools are a worthwhile opportunity for students to take hold of.

“As long as it’s available, I think it will keep growing,” Biedebach said. “It’s a good system, but it doesn’t always work perfectly.”

Featured Image: File.

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Carter Mize

Carter Mize

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