JEHS senior looks to earn associate’s degree through Early College High School program
When senior Mackenzie Eck graduates from Jordan-Elbridge High School in June, she won’t just have a high school diploma. Eck expects to be the first JEHS student to graduate with an associate’s degree, thanks to the school’s Early College High School program, which is offered in conjunction with Onondaga Community College (OCC).
Now in its third year, the ECHS program affords students the opportunity to earn high school and college credits concurrently and graduate with two degrees: A New York high school diploma and associate’s degree. The college credits earned in the program also transfer to SUNY schools.
This year, 10 students – the school’s highest number yet – are enrolled in the program. Principal Mark Schermerhorn attributes the increased participation to the success stories shared by past students who have earned college credits. Buoyed by JEHS students’ experiences with the Early College High School program, other districts have started sending their students to OCC.
“The program has been very successful. It’s great that for the first time we are going to have a student earn an associate’s degree while in high school,” Schermerhorn said.
Schermerhorn said a typical student finishes the program with an average of 45 credits. That means they essentially start college as a second-semester sophomore.
By May, Eck expects to have 63 college credits, 42 of which she earned through the ECHS program. Starting as a freshman, she took OCC courses at the high school, and during her high school career, she’s taken night classes at Cayuga Community College for the fall and spring semesters.
“My original plan was to graduate from high school at the end of my junior year with my brother and go straight into a four-year school,” Eck said.
“However, I was informed about the OCC program and figured I should inquire about it. It seemed that the OCC program would be a good choice because it is financially beneficial, and I still wanted to be part of my school community.”
Eck said she recommends the program because it allows high school students to see what college is like and to go at their own pace.
“Students are allowed to take as many or as few classes as their schedule will fit,” she said.
“The OCC program is a good transition between high school and college because it allows students to get a head start with college classes as well as learn what to expect from professors, and, in general, how college works. Professors are also not notified of high school students in their classes, so you are treated as a regular college student.”
Some of the classes students are taking this year include business, marketing, psychology and macroeconomics.
Senior Timothy Prior enrolled in the program to get a taste of college and likes how he can get a year’s worth of college classes under his belt while in high school.
“It’s a great environment and it’s good to see all these news faces. I like my classes,” Prior said.
Likewise, senior Ben Sullivan said the program affords him the opportunity to take classes he wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to take while in high school.
“To be able to get college credits is great,” Sullivan said.
“This also helps with the cost of college, because maybe I can go to undergrad school for three years. Then I can put the money I save toward a master’s degree.”