Kudos to Oxford Area School District for offering innovative program to students
● By Steven Hoffman
One of the ways that high schools are measured is to look at the percentage of graduates who attend four-year colleges. This statistic, like the number of wins that a pitcher has in baseball, can sometimes be misleading because it only tells part of the story.
A better indicator of the job that a high school is doing is simply this: Are the students prepared for what comes next by the time they graduate? What comes next, in most cases, will be attending a four-year college. But it could also be entering a two-year college program, joining the military, or finding a job right away. In 2015, we shouldn't be so narrow-minded as to think that all students need to complete a college degree, or that that college degree is necessary for a person to lead a successful life.
The Oxford Area School District has established a partnership with Cecil College that provides students with practical and purposeful educational opportunities that simply aren't available to all students right now. This collaboration provides Oxford students with the opportunity, starting in the ninth grade, to take part in the Early College Academy. This innovative program not only allows for dual enrollment where college credits are earned, it also allows Oxford students to take enough college credits so that they can earn an associate's degree from Cecil College by the time they earn a high school diploma. In other instances, students might transfer credits earned at Cecil College and work toward a four-year degree at another university. Other students can earn the skills necessary to enter the workforce right away. By taking part in the Early College Academy, Oxford students are that much further along on the path to a career.
Statistics show that nationally, students who take part in dual enrollment programs while still in high school are much more likely to complete the coursework toward a degree than students who take the traditional route of transitioning from high school to a four-year college. A majority of the students who attend college don't complete their degree in four years, and only slightly more than half the students earn a degree within six years. Even for those students who persevere through 16 to 18 years of studying and test-taking, many college graduates go underemployed. One study revealed that only 62 percent of all college graduates had a job that actually required them to have a degree. Fewer than three out of ten college graduates get a job that is closely related to their field of study. Furthermore, the costs of attaining a college degree have skyrocketed in the last three decades. Many young adults are beginning lives on their own burdened by student loan debt.
A program like the Early College Academy can be valuable to students—and their families—in several different ways. The students are challenged academically, and they are thinking about their lives after high school as they make choices about what courses to take. The students can take courses that can prepare them for the occupations that they want after graduation. And all this can be accomplished with significantly less cost than attaining a four-year degree at a university.
The Oxford Area School District should be lauded for providing this opportunity to its students, and in our opinion, more school districts should follow Oxford's lead by pursuing similar initiatives.