Unversity of the District of Columbia mulls high school partnership

An area university is looking to launch an educational partnership with D.C. public high schools, a proposal modeled after the program between GW and the School Without Walls.

The University of the District of Columbia announced last month the proposal for an early college program similar to GW’s. Students at the School Without Walls – located near G and 22nd streets – can take classes at GW as part of the Early College Program.

Sheila Harris, director of the Early College Program, said participating SWW students are enrolled at GW, but also have to meet D.C. public school requirements, like physical education. Students can begin the program their junior year of high school, and at the end of two years will have earned an associate’s degree, as well as a D.C. high school diploma.

“Our students must take five courses from GW and some of them are still taking SWW courses on top of that,” Harris said.

Currently, 14 seniors and six juniors from SWW are part of the program, which began in the fall of 2009.

Following completion of the program, these students can apply to GW to pursue a bachelor’s degree or transfer their credits earned to another higher education institution.

UDC’s program will follow a similar framework if adopted.

“When the committee for the Early College Program first met, they had envisioned a program that would be a pilot program for other universities seeking similar partnerships,” Harris said of GW’s program.

In UDC’s proposed 2-plus-4 model, students would earn an associate’s degree in high school, along with their high school diploma, and stay at UDC for another two years to complete their bachelor’s degree.

As of now, the program is only in the beginning stages.

“It’s hard to say when we will get the program underway as we are just now laying the groundwork, but we are hoping to start sooner rather than later,” said Alan Etter, director of public relations for UDC.

UDC plans to partner with both SWW and Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in an early college program. Wilson students already have classes on UDC’s campus this semester because their school building is undergoing renovation.

UDC’s program will be free to participating students, just like GW’s. The number of students that will be involved is still unknown.

“We are just beginning to get the figures sorted out so it is hard to say how many students we will be able to service,” Etter said.

Etter said the students chosen for UDC’s program, similar to GW’s, will be the most qualified students in D.C.

“We are looking for the cream of the crop of high performance students,” Etter said.

Harris said that with the opening of UDC’s program comes the possibility of more D.C. students being exposed to the college experience.

“[The Early College Program] does a great job of preparing them for the college experience because they are actually doing it. They actually become college students and take courses with other college students and real professors,” Harris said.

This preparation has been extremely beneficial for students, according to the educators involved.

“Our partnership with GW continues to do well and make headlines as a model to be replicated across the country,” Richard Trogisch, principal of SWW, said.

Overall, Harris said the parternships are beneficial to the participating students.

“The students I have seen in this program are all incredibly mature. They are so different, so savvy, so sure of themselves. They all demonstrate a readiness to continue onto a four-year school completely ready to handle the challenges,” Harris said.

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