The real deal on attending college while in high school

Several programs help students take college courses while in high school or even junior high. What are the pros and cons?

OHIO, USA — Earning college credit while still in high school can be a great way to get a jump start on higher learning.

Plenty of students do it, but how easy or difficult is the process? To start, taking college courses as a high school student not only gets a few college classes out of the way early, but can save you some major money.

“They don’t have to pay for these courses. The state will cover the cost,” says Amanda Zacur, Assistant Recruitment Director at Cleveland State University.

Zacur is referring to Ohio’s College Credit Plus, or CCP, program – one of the most popular ways junior high and high school students are earning college credits for free from any public college in the state.

“It allows anyone grades 7 through 12 to take college level coursework,” says Zacur. But you do have to meet certain admission criteria.”

Take GPA, for example; each school has different criteria. Many schools require a 3.0, but some make exceptions.

“At Cleveland State, if you don’t have a 3.0, we will look for a 2.3 GPA and a 16 on the ACT and an 880 on the SAT,” says Zacur.

Warrensville High School senior Allen Barkley is in CCP’s Rising Stars program.

“It gets students started in 9th grade taking college-level coursework and then builds slowly over the years,” says Heidi Nicholas, Executive Director of Enrollment Management & Operations at Cuyahoga Community College.

Early college courses helped Barkley become a college graduate before becoming a high school graduate. He admits he’s not a perfect student academically, but he is driven.

“I graduated this past Thursday with my Associate’s of Arts before I got my high school degree,” says Barkley. “I’m not gonna sit up here and say I got all A’s and B’s. I got a couple C’s. It’s not easy. I definitely was about to quit halfway through. It was a lot of work. You just got to stay focused ,” says Barkley. “When the professor says it’s due by 11:59 on Sunday, it’s due by 11:59 on Sunday. Whereas high school you can maneuver a little bit.”

Also, if you fail an early college course, it stays on your permanent college record.

“These are conversations that, I think, parents and school administrators should have with the student to make sure they’re socially and academically prepared to be in a college environment,” says Nicholas.

Overall, educators and students agree the pros of early college outweigh the cons. And with programs like College Credit Plus and Ohio College Tech Prep – and Early College High Schools, which blend your first year of college into the curriculum – it’s now easier than ever for kids to get an early start on their future.

“I’ll be graduating in May from Warrensville and I’ll be taking my Associate of Arts and high school degree and going to Kent State,” says Barkley.

Students should meet with their school counselor to choose the early college path that’s right for them. Some early college programs require it. For more information on Ohio’s Early College programs and schools visit the Ohio Department of Education website.