Early College program proves beneficial for students

Madelaine Province, Staff Writer

Of the many opportunities U. City High School has to offer, one of the most impressive is the Early College Program. This program allows students to take Dual Credit classes through St. Louis Community College (STLCC) their junior year, and then actually attend classes at STLCC while they’re still seniors in high school. Those seniors will then graduate high school already having earned an associate’s degree. Many students have opted for this program.

“It has caused me to take a lot more initiative with everything, both responsibility-wise and academically,” Michaela Flowers, senior, said. “It’s definitely prepared me [for college] because even if the credits I’m working on now don’t transfer, being in the classroom taking those college-level courses is like getting a crash course in the prerequisites that I would have to take anyways.”

One of the reasons this program is so beneficial is because it’s appealing to a variety of students for many reasons.

“I felt like early college was the best option to benefit my future because I really want to be a travel nurse,” Isabelle Braeske, junior, said. “Most nursing programs only take two years, and it only takes two years to graduate from college with an Associate’s degree, so it would work out perfectly.”

With the increasing expense of college, it can be helpful to already have some of the credits done and be able to have some knowledge about what a college environment is like.

“College is getting really expensive and I wanted to get the prerequisites out of the way,” Bella Wright, junior, said. “I also thought it would be a pretty good experience getting college credits and having college experience prior to actually having to pay for it.” Despite all the program’s advantages, it’s not of interest to everyone. Some people still prefer a more traditional high school atmosphere.

“I was scared of the workload at the community college, and I also really wanted to keep my high school experience and my college experience separate,” Lucy Rhoades, senior, said. “I wanted to take allfour years at U. City and stay in the building to really enjoy my high school times while I had them since they were going to come to an end. I do think it’s a really good opportunity though, and I love that U. City offers it.”

While many are happy about how their experience with the program has been so far, some students have mixed feelings about having all their classes on the STLCC campus.

“I’m nervous that I’m going to be sad about not being in the building my senior year, because I was also not in the building my freshman year due to covid. But I feel like I’ll be ready by the end of this year to not be here,” Braeske said. “I can always come back for the activities like the dances and sports, so it’ll be fine.”

Others had a different opinion.

“Ultimately I’m happy about my choice,” Rhoades said. “I feel like I’m already really stressed out with the workload of high school and I see how hard the early college people are working so that would be a lot for me.”

Even for students who will choose to pursue a school somewhere out of state where the credits won’t transfer, the program is a great learning experience and a beneficial asset to have just in case.

“It’s very helpful as a backup,” Flowers said. “If I ever did stay in-state and not transfer, I could go to a local 4-year university and my credits would transfer. And I could save money.”

Kimberly Merrill, the head of the counseling department and dual credit/early college counselor, implores students to reap the benefits of this program.

“I encourage students to participate in early college; however, if that’s not the program for them, they should take advantage of the dual credit courses we have at U. City,” Merrill said. “Both are great opportunities that can have a positive impact on students’ lives after they graduate.”