Students at Elgin High School who want to get a jump on their college education have great resource available — Austin Community College’s Early College Start program.
Getting a college education can be a huge boost for any young person’s career, but it is also expensive. Early College Start can be a big help. The program allows juniors and seniors to enroll in ACC for college credit while still in high school. In most cases, the courses are dual credit.
Tuition is waived and the students can take up to two courses per semester. The program has been a big hit at Elgin High School. From 2009 to 2010, participation increased 89 percent. There were 85 students in the program during the fall semester, an 84.8 percent increase over last fall.
“It’s a great experience to take these courses while you’re in high school,” said Mison Zuniga, director of the Early College Start program. “Most students graduate high school and then have a difficult first semester at college. This gives them a chance to take college courses while they still have the support of family and teachers.”
Zuniga said students who take at least one college course in high school are much more likely to attend college. The experience teaches time management, how to communicate with the college faculty and where to get help with course work.
Elgin High School senior Colin Ashby is taking Early College Start classes and is already well into his college career.
“I decided to do this because I felt like I wasn’t getting ready for college,” he said. “I wanted to dive right into it. It’s like a scholarship in itself. I now only need three years to get a Bachelors Degree.”
This semester, Colin is taking Human Growth and Development and English Composition 2. He has already taken Government, Speech, Psychology, History 1 and 2, English 1, and Spanish 1 and 2.
It hasn’t been easy, Colin says. “The professors are more strict than our high school teachers. When it’s the deadline, it’s the deadline. I go to school in the day, work at Southside BBQ and Market in the afternoon and at night I do homework.” Still he feels it has been worth it. “I realize how much this is saving me. It would be foolish not to.”
There are other benefits as well. “I have a better outlook on life,” he said. “I don’t take things for granted. It has taught me dedication, discipline and boosted my self-confidence.”
At the end of this semester in May, he will have 38 credits, more than enough for one year of college. All he had to pay for was his textbooks. Those can be pricey, but he still saved lots of money, approximately $200 per course. He estimates that he has saved between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of tuition.
Colin plans to attend Texas State University in San Marcos and major in mass communications.