Smart Scholars Early College High School Program
One of the Valley's top educational programs in 2014
Several colleges in the state have partnered with local high schools to boost the odds for disadvantaged kids to earn a college degree.
Started in 2010, the Smart Scholars Early College High School Program aims to hike high school graduation rates by allowing high schoolers to earn between 20 and 60 credits that are transferable to college. Not only can kids in the program who go on to college finish their education faster and enter the workforce sooner, they can also save on college tuition.
“The program encourages students to challenge themselves; to help them realize that, whatever their background, college is obtainable,” says Robert Andrea, associate vice provost at the University at Albany, which — along with Hudson Valley Community College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — works with Albany High School students in the program.
The students generally take prep courses in their freshman and sophomore years — blending a taste of both high school and college course loads. They receive extra tutoring as needed, plus mentoring to prepare them for advanced studies in the field of their choosing. They then move on to college-level classes in their junior and senior years.
“Some of the high school students take most of their Smart Scholar classes at their school; others take some courses on the college campuses, and some do both,” says Evelyn Maclutsky, project coordinator at the state Education Department.
There are now 21 high school/college partnerships statewide, with more than 5,000 students taking part. About 90 percent of students go on to attend college, Maclutsky says. “Overall, it helps the students become more engaged with their courses,” she says of the Smart Scholars program. “And doing college-level work while they’re in high school gives them the encouragement and confidence that they can succeed.”