Mar. 8—A new, early college credit program was recently unveiled that could see dozens of Hamilton and Middletown students simultaneously earn their high school diplomas and a Miami University associate degree by the spring of their senior years.
Officials from the two school districts — along with Miami officials — joined in a partnership and announced the program's launch for next school year's high school junior applicants to the new Early College Academy program.
Unlike the more than decade-old College Credit Plus, which allows Ohio high school students to study to earn college credit from a variety of universities and community colleges while in grades 9-12, the Early College Academy participants must be juniors and will study only Miami University Regionals courses.
Rick Pate, CEO of secondary programs for Hamilton Schools, said participating students can earn up to the equivalent of a two-year, Miami associate's degree in general studies by the spring of their senior year.
It's a money saver but more importantly the new program offers a focused and fast track toward a possible Miami undergraduate or graduate degrees, said Pate.
"They (students) are not left on their own to take college courses from a (variety) of other places (schools) and there is support at Miami (regional) to help them be successful. And all these courses are neatly packaged into a Miami's associate's degree."
Students from Hamilton and Middletown schools who will be juniors at the beginning of next school year in August are eligible if they apply by May 1 at Miami's regionals website.
Students who qualify, would start their college course studies — either in person on campus or online, depending on the courses they chosen — on Aug. 22.
In the initial year of the program 30 Hamilton High School juniors may participate in the free program and 20 Middletown High School juniors, who will study at Miami University Middletown campus across the street from the high school or online.
Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for Middletown Schools, said "we expect this program to break the educational mold, blurring the lines between traditional College Credit Plus classes and a high school diploma."
"The Early College Academy will allow students to pursue their Associates Degree simultaneously with their high school diploma. Students will attend classes at Miami University-Middletown with a choice of eight focus areas," said Beadle.
"These courses and all associated fees will be free of charge to the students who participate," she said.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent Mike Holbrook praised the new program as a game changer for participating students.
"Providing students with access to college programs at an earlier age will increase their confidence, improve the likelihood of completing college-level courses, lead to earning a college degree, and provide them numerous opportunities as they enter the global workforce," Holbrook said.