The Aug. 31 edition of The Baltimore Sun featured the article, "In Bard, Baltimore school officials hope to pave a free path to college," by Erica L. Green, about a new early college program in Baltimore City made possible by a partnership between the public school system and Bard College of New York. This program has the potential to improve the educations and futures of selected Baltimore City high school students, and for that it should be applauded. However, the article incorrectly states that the only other similar initiative in Maryland is an early college high school program at Prince George's Community College.
In actuality, four of Maryland's community colleges offer seven similar early college programs. Early college, sometimes called middle college, allows students to concurrently earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree (or 60 credits toward a bachelor's degree) while they are in high school. Early college curriculums are more rigorous than regular high school but save enrolled students both time and money because two degrees are earned concurrently.
In addition to Prince George's Community College, Hagerstown Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County offer early college programs as described above. Howard Community College also offers a very similar early college program.
Graduates of the Academy of Health Sciences @ Prince George's Community College simultaneously receive an associate degree in General Studies Health Sciences as well as a high school diploma. All 92 students in the class of 2015 are continuing study at four-year colleges or universities due to scholarship offers of $9 million. The Prince George's early college program includes specialized academic advising and career counseling to enhance college success and career readiness.
The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) just graduated its pilot early college class of 26 students, all of whom will now pursue bachelor's degrees at four-year institutions of their choosing, some with full scholarships. Although this is the first class of early college students for CCBC, the school has offered traditional dual enrollment programs for many years.
STEMM Technical Middle College is one of three early college programs offered at Hagerstown Community College. The acronym for this STEM program includes a second "M" for "medical." STEMM students attend Hagerstown full-time in their junior and senior years, after doing rigorous coursework preparation at their high schools during their freshman and sophomore years. HCC's two other early college programs target accomplished students in non-STEM fields, as well as low-income, first-generation college-bound students.
Two similar early college programs are offered through Howard Community College. Early College Cybersecurity and Early College STEM both allow students to earn a high school diploma and 30 credits toward an associate in arts degree. The cybersecurity program provides a CompTIA Network+ certification, which is recognized by industry as a foundation for employment in the information technology field.
Early college programs are a subset of increasingly popular dual enrollment programs which have seen a 20 percent enrollment surge at Maryland's community colleges over the past year.
The College Completion and Career and College Readiness Act passed by the legislature in 2013 encourages each community college to develop dual enrollment programs with their local school systems. Popularity of these programs continues to grow due to successful student outcomes. Maryland's community colleges provide many pathways for high school students to experience an affordable and transferable college experience.
Bernard J. Sadusky, Annapolis
The writer is executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.