A program rolled out this week will allow some Tulsa students to earn an associate degree at the same time they attend high school.
And it’s free.
The Early College High School program — a partnership between Tulsa Public Schools with Tulsa Community College — will launch in the fall of 2021 at McLain and Memorial high schools.
The program is an expansion of a pilot program at Union High School. Started in 2017, the Union program is on course to graduate its first 30 students with associate degrees and high school diplomas next May. The privately funded Union program has cohorts of 49 and 64 lines up for graduation in 2022 and 2023.
Every teenager isn’t cut out to earn a college degree while in high school. It takes the right student working extra hard with a lot of support. As the Union program has demonstrated, a critical element of success is getting the students to prepare together, study together and encourage one another.
It also takes money. The TPS program will cost about $5,100 per student, not including extra transportation costs. Tuition and fees will be shared by TPS, TCC and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Officials expect federal funding will cover TPS program costs. The issue is expected to be considered for final approval by the state regents at the board’s next meeting.
Tulsa Superintendent Deb Gist called Early College High School a “life-changing program,” and we agree.
The program is open to any incoming ninth graders but targets students whose families did not attend college. That means a new generation of college-educated students could emerge to help close Tulsa’s equity gap and replace a cycle of despair with a cycle of achievement and prosperity.
It also would demonstrate again and publicly that an urban public school district is capable of innovative programs that are not available through private or charter school competitors. Epic Charter School became the largest public school district in the state through aggressive marketing of its distance learning platform. Early College High School is the sort of creative alternative in a public school setting that could help reverse that migration.
Early College High School is a good idea, and we salute everyone involved in developing it.