Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A new early college charter school in the works

There's a new high school/college charter school that's going through the approval process with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School Board. Right now, it's called The Alaska Early College Charter School*, reflecting the fact that high school juniors and seniors who enroll (or are selected via essay or lottery) will be eligible to complete both their final high school classes AND their general education requirements in college. Theoretically, a successful graduate will have both a diploma and several credits toward an associate's degree in hand.

Considering how expensive college tuition is, this could be a real boon to Valley parents. When I read about it in the school board's agenda a few weeks back, I called district offices right away. Until everything is approved, it's all hush-hush but word is the school will start taking enrollment in 2012-13. Woot!

Word is also that the students will be bussed to the Eagle River campus of UAA - which struck me as odd considering we have Mat-Su College right on our doorstep. (Not to mention the fact the district is already facing the high cost of busing within the Valley.) But district officials say that's because Mat-Su's campus isn't quite ready to participate in the program.

The district does currently offer college-level courses for students, but this would be different: any student could participate, not just one at the top of their class. Other programs are out there now, too. Alaska Pacific University offers an Early Honors program but it costs at least $15,000, and a bit more if your student wants to study abroad.  However, many other communities have similar programs that cost very little or are free.  The Early College High School Initiative lists schools the organization has redesigned or planned, including one in Fairbanks that targets Alaska Natives. Like many others on this site, minority students are key to this outreach. Offering a part of college for free gives a boost to kids from lower income families who may not have either the support or the money to attempt post-secondary education.

Let's face it,  the better-educated the next generation is, the better off we are as a society.

--Melodie Wright

*Name could change

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