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Center focuses on early college

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For years, schools have focused on helping teens get started on their degrees while still in high school.

But often, those degrees or college credits appeal more to students who are planning to attend a four-year college after graduation.

Now, one school wants to begin a program geared toward students who want to begin their careers shortly after high school.

Central Nine Career Center officials are talking with Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University about the possibility of creating an early college program, which could allow students to earn up to two years worth of college credits by the time they leave high school.

Students who join the program would take courses that could prepare them for specific careers in welding, cooking and computer programing that they could begin immediately after graduating, career center assistant director Nicole Otte said.

If enough students are interested, the new program could begin next school year, Otte said.

The goal of the new classes is to appeal to students who are not planning to go to a four-year college, in addition to the ones who are, Otte said.

Students bound for four-year colleges could save thousands on the cost of their degree if they have a chance to earn an associate’s degree while in high school, Otte said.

Other students who want to begin technical careers immediately after high school can use the degree to show they have enough experience to start working, Otte said.

“I think it just further emphasizes that career and technical education is a plan A, just like any other college option,” Otte said.

Center Grove schools already offers an early college program through Vincennes University where students can earn an associate’s degree. Other school districts offer a mix of dual credit and Advanced Placement courses students can take to earn college credit. Career center officials need to start talking with area school districts to find out how their new program could work in connection with those at area high schools, Otte said.

Greenwood school officials are excited about the prospect of an early college program at Central Nine, and when some of the school district’s employees heard it was a consideration they started talking about how their own children could benefit from the program, assistant superintendent of learning Rick Ahlgrim said.

“We would like to see students who, at the end of four years of high school, graduate not only with their high school diploma, but an associate’s degree in some kind of career and technical education,” Ahlgrim said.

Greenwood already offers dual credit and AP courses but has no early college program. But in the last year, Greenwood and other area school districts have started to focus on more technical careers students could consider pursuing after high school.

Not all of those jobs, in fields such as welding and information technology, will require a four-year degree, though many of them will require some kind of certification or additional training.

Allowing students to earn associate’s degrees with training in those specific fields will better prepare them for life after high school, Ahlgrim said.

“We believe it to be a great benefit for our students,” he said.

High school students who earn associate’s degrees typically have to start taking college-level classes as freshman so that they complete all of their high school and college courses within four years.

If Central Nine creates an early college program, Greenwood and other local school districts who want to enroll their students would need to be sure the high school had enough teachers certified to teach general education for either Vincennes or Ivy Tech, Ahlgrim said.

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