“We take top students and we take students with potential,” Alisa Lawson-McKinnie, Principal of the Early College Program at Cleveland Heights High School, said.
When lawmakers created the college credit plus initiative in 2013-2015 budget, part of the idea was to make sure all Ohio high school students knew about it.
They required every school district to explain the free college opportunity in a public meeting and as they suspected, participation increased.
“We’ve seen about a 20 percent increase in student enrollment in the college credit Plus courses,” said Robert Swaggard, Coordinator of Secondary Education for the Cleveland Heights District’s Board.
He continued, “From our district's perspective...the program allows for great access…increasing enrollment in AP courses for minority students, how we offer additional support for our students.”
Statewide, nearly 32,000 students have participated since its inception. That's up from 15,000 from the state’s previous post-secondary program.
Lawson-McKinnie said about the Early College Program, “Our goal is to provide all of our students with college experiences and exposure.”
Jonathan Hicks is a senior at Cleveland Heights High school, but is also a full-time college student at John Carroll University.
He explained the rigor of the course, but said eventually, he adjusted.
“It’s overwhelming at first, but after the first year you come out of it and you’re like that’s it?”
He’s part of the first graduating class in the early college program -- a function of college credit plus, that starts kids off in the ninth grade.
Hicks said, “I felt prepared to be on equal level with all the college students that are at JCU.”
In the fall, he'll be stepping into college as a junior, giving him only two years left to complete his undergraduate degree in bioengineering.
He said, “It feels pretty great like it makes me feel like all this was worth it, that all my hard work paid off.”
He also expressed his gratitude toward the program be allowing him the opportunity to make strides ‘early’ toward his ultimate goal.
“I owe a lot to this program, they were a support system when I was down, when I was frustrated…and they kind of, whenever I fell back down the mountain, they pushed me back up it.”