Jeff Meadors: Early college a choice for success

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

You want school choice? You got it. Success lives here.

More and more high school students are making the early leap to college.

Early college experiences at small community colleges provide affordable, accessible, safe entrees into the world of post-secondary learning where small teacher-student ratios, quality academic advisement and ample tutoring make one thing clear: the individual student matters and teaching is the core principle.

Across the country, students seek choice and early college programs are making the grade. The state of Florida boasts some of the highest joint and dual enrollments in the country given the longtime full funding of dual credit programs. Georgia came on board with HB 186 to fund high school juniors and seniors and many are bidding adieu to hallways of peer pressure and opting to call college home. More and more dual enrollment students appear in the high school Top Ten. Many are Vals and Sals.

Georgia legislation directs all public secondary schools to notify all eligible high school students in grades 8 11 of all early college programs by April 1 of each school year. Counseling departments are the place to begin where students can work from required Carnegie Units needed to graduate. College advisors in early programs then match the high school state course codes with post-secondary approved course names, offer guidance on End of Course Tests (EOCTs) and provide individualized college, career, funding and pathway advisement to bridge secondary credentials with the ultimate four-year college degree. Accel dollars now fund tuition for unaccredited home school students under fiscal year 2013 regulations. Choice doesn't get much better than this.

Georgia students often take the following dual credit courses which return to Georgia high schools under HB 149 as a full year's Carnegie Unit for a semester's worth of college level work: Economics, English, History, College Algebra, Calculus, History, Political Science, Psychology, Public Speaking, Spanish and a variety of sciences.

Students should start now exploring the SAT at www.collegeboard.com or the ACT at www.actstudent.org as one eligible set of scores is typically required for most programs coupled with a good GPA. Students should look to www.gacollege411.org as the only place in Georgia to find the "official Hope GPA." HB 186 has spurred public school students to engage in the 411 site as early as elementary school with many students in fifth grade now having 411 profiles.

Dual students soar through EOCTs and data analysis from the Community College Research Center finds them more likely candidates for degree completion. An added bonus for Georgia school leaders? Participation percentages boost the high school score on the annual GCCRPI scorecard.

Dual enrollment courses no longer pull from future HOPE hours under HB 326 so this is tuition-paid school choice at its best.

As politicians navigate explosive debates over school choice, the best kept secret for many Georgia students may be the choices at the end of the street: early college choices at the local community college.

Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.