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Early College Program to Give At-Risk Students Taste of Higher Ed


Starting this fall, about 55 seventh-graders from central Georgia will be attending Early College, part of a statewide program that aims to give students who aren’t on track for higher education a taste of college life.

“A lot of these kids … people think they drop out because they’re not smart,” says Sara Connor, director of an outreach arm of the University System of Georgia. “But oftentimes it’s because they’re not challenged. This work is much more challenging for them.”

The students from Baldwin and Putnam counties will take regular high school curriculum through grade 10 and then work on core college classes for the last two years, says Camille Tyson, director of Early College on the Georgia College & State University campus.

They will earn both a high school diploma and two years of college credit toward a bachelor’s degree.

The program, for which students apply and then are selected through a lottery, seeks to “use the power of place to really encourage these students to push themselves,” Tyson says. She says she hopes students will imitate the work ethic of the college students around them.

According to Conner, students who are at risk of not finishing high school or not enrolling in higher education are the ones encouraged to apply to Early College. Minorities, non-native English speakers and first-generation college-bound students are considered at particular risk for failing before they graduate from high school.

For Georgia’s Early College, students will be bused in every day and have access to all campus facilities, including libraries and science labs. The plan is to add a new class of 55 seventh-graders each year.

Angela Lindsey, whose son, Seth, will attend Early College in the fall, says she hopes smaller class size and individualized attention will help Seth fight the distractions that have made him struggle in middle school.

“It will afford him opportunities I was never given, as far as school and years from now,” Lindsay says.

The program is one of four set to open statewide this fall. Georgia’s first Early College opened last year as a cooperative effort between Atlanta public schools and Georgia State University, Connor says. Nationwide, there are about 71 such schools with more than 11,000 students, according to the Early College High School Initiative. The first opened in 2002.

— Associated Press


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