Local high schoolers earn associate degree before graduating high school

Early College High Sachool
Students at Early College High School in the classroom / Christina Dawidowicz -- FOX21 News

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Some high schoolers aren’t just working for a diploma – they’re working towards an associate degree.

“Most kids are graduating from a four-year degree and they’re like, ‘what am I going to do next?’ Our kids have the capacity to graduate and be done with a master’s degree in the same amount of time,” said Aurora Umana-Arko, principal of Early College High School at the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus.

The school offers 66 credit hours and the classes are taught by adjunct faculty members, who are certified through Pikes Peak Community College and Adams State University.

A freshman at Early College High School can earn up to 10 credit hours at the end of the school year, but they can take more and earn up to 16 credit as a 9th grader.

“It’s a lot more work. So, one college semester is the equivalent of high school year, so they fit everything that you would learn in one high school year into just you know, from January to May,” said Je’Niesa Manning, an 11th grader at ECHS.

It’s a huge savings to students.

“Close to $8,000 in money saved. You know, all my Pikes Peak classes were paid and the majority of my UCCS classes, it’s about half is what’s paid and then we cover the rest, but it’s not as significant as if you were paying full tuition,” said Nikolas Delgado, a sophomore at UCCS which he attends through ECHS.

“It’s a fortune – tuition is really expensive. Our students have gone through our program, they didn’t have to pay the tuition, they didn’t have to pay the textbooks and all the fees. So, their families have already saved two years of college,” Umana-Arko said.

District 11 says the school also offers a variety of certifications – from education, Adobe, cyber-security and more.

Teachers say the tests are free but normally cost between $200 to $300 a piece.

“If a student wants to seek a higher degree, a master’s degree, they can be completely finished with their bachelor’s and their master’s by the time they’re 22-years-old,” Umana-Arko said.

Right now there are nearly 200 students at ECHS.

Every student is registered through Pikes Peak Community College and all earn college credit.

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