Lake Highlands High will establish a new Wildcat College and Career Academy, enabling students to earn up to 60 hours of college credit and an associate degree and/or industry certification by the time they graduate high school.
The new program will begin with 100 incoming freshmen in the fall of 2019, and 100 more students will be added with each successive graduating class.
The academy will operate as a “school within a school,” and students may select from programs specializing in business, criminal justice, education or construction technology. Richardson ISD’s Pearce High School will also initiate an academy offering business, information technology and robotics.
Credit hours earned in the early college academy will be accepted by any public college in Texas and many private universities. The program also plans partnerships with industry professionals, who will conduct site visits, offer internships and develop working relationships with students.
Participating in extra-curricular activities, such as athletics, Wranglers, drill team or band, will be challenging – but not impossible – for academy enrollees. Each student will have a list of required coursework needed to complete his or her “degree plan,” and some tracks may have more or less flexibility than others. Students who enter 9th grade with credits they’ve accumulated in junior high may have open spots in their schedule, while others would need to collect credits in summer school if they want to join a sports team or cheer squad.
The expansion of LHHS’ dual credit course offerings will also be open to students not enrolled in the academy.
The benefits of earning college credit and certifications during high school years are easy to see. Tuition and books are free, and students will jump ahead into the world of work or higher education with job experience, internships and/or coursework under their belt.
There are also concerns to be aware of. Recent high school grads, especially first-generation students who lack family members with college experience, often struggle during their freshman year of college. They struggle even more when they jump into junior-level coursework with upperclassmen, who are already acclimated to independent life. These particular students would be wise to seek additional support on campus when they enroll in four-year universities as 18-year-olds. One-third of first-generation students drop out of college after three years according to a recent study, compared to 14 percent of their peers whose parents had earned a degree.
The Wildcat College and Career Academy will have a big impact on participating Lake Highlands families beginning next year. You can learn more on the RISD website here.