Twenty Oxford High School students dually enroll at Cecil College
● By Lev
A new partnership between Cecil College and the Oxford Area School District is providing 20 students with the rare opportunity to say they are both college and high school students at the same time.
As the first participants in the Early College Academy, the ninth-graders from Oxford Area High School will earn Cecil College credits as they progress through their high school careers and potentially earn an associate degree at the same time they cross the stage with their high school diplomas.
“Making these ninth-graders Cecil College students is a huge development for us,” said Dr. W. Stephen Pannill, president of Cecil College. “The students and their parents are excited, and it particularly addresses our strategic initiative to emphasize completion.”
During the students’ freshman and sophomore years at Oxford, college coursework will be delivered online. High school and college faculty will be available to assist the students with their work. In the junior and senior years, students will come to Cecil College to take their classes. The curriculum is designed to be progressively more rigorous as the students advance from ninth to twelfth grades. As they proceed through the academy, the number of high school courses versus college courses in the students’ schedules will shift.
The creation of the Early College Academy developed from conversations between the two organizations about dual enrollment. Oxford asked if it can be done in a broader way and allow for its students to complete high school with a college degree.
“The administration of the Oxford Area School District has been very collaborative and enthusiastic about moving this forward,” said Dr. Diane Lane, vice president of student services and institutional effectiveness at Cecil College. “They have seamlessly facilitated every aspect of this from their end by making classrooms and technology accessible as well as building it into the students’ schedules.”
Those who complete the academy coursework will be awarded a Cecil College general studies degree as they graduate from Oxford Area High School. The students are also encouraged to follow pathways of interest by taking college courses related to specific areas such as business, math and engineering. Should any students not finish the program, which is not anticipated, they will still be eligible to apply the credits earned toward a certificate, transfer their credits to another institution, or rejoin Cecil College to pick up where they stopped.
While the concept of the Early College Academy is new to this area, the model has been applied to school systems in other parts of the country. There are indicators that it is garnering the results it was designed to achieve.
“The early college initiative has shown a great deal of success, especially in Florida and several other states around nation,” said Lane. “What they are finding is that students who are participating have better attendance rates throughout high school and are more likely to go on and complete a bachelor’s degree. The Early College Academy really responds to a lot of positive aspects of what we need to do to raise the college completion rates – not only at this institution, but around the state and the nation.”
Students in the academy will have full access to Cecil’s library, tutoring services and computer labs as well as many other college resources. They will be guided through the coursework with the support of academic advisors who will coordinate seminars designed to develop academic skills to complement the classroom experience.
While this year’s 20 students hold the distinction of being the inaugural members of the Early College Academy, the plan is to welcome another group of Oxford Area High School ninth-graders next fall and in the subsequent years to come. The initial academy is also intended to serve as a prototype for future collaborations with other parties.
“We consider this to be a pilot program, which we are going to learn from,” said Pannill. “We hope to replicate this and improve on our model moving forward as we look at opportunities to expand and make the academy available in other locations, including Cecil County.”