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“Skipping” High School

A fast-paced new initiative is set to launch this coming fall in Prince George’s county:

This fall, 100 ninth-graders will attend classes on the campus of Prince George’s Community College in Largo through a public school initiative called the Academy of Health Sciences. They’ll start with typical classes from high school teachers in such subjects as English, biology, math and Chinese.

By 11th grade, administrators expect these students to be immersed in college life. They’ll have meal plans. Ninety percent of their classes will be with professors and college students. Many are expected to earn enough credits to receive an associate’s degree along with a high school diploma.

Dubbed a “middle college,” the program enrolls students full-time on a college campus, rendering this initiative unique among similar college immersions — in which students typically enroll in individual courses. Moreover:

In Prince George’s, the middle college targets disadvantaged students. Half of those students accepted into the program are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, or would be the first in their families to go to college.

Officials say the school aims to give motivated students an extra edge, socially and economically, in pursuing their college dreams.

What is your take on this initiative? If low-income students graduate from high school with an associate’s degree, they could head straight to their junior year of college, which would certainly be a boon financially. And with 980 students applying for 100 places in the program’s inaugural year, demand is undoubtably high. But does it benefit students to forgo a traditional high school experience — four years that are often quite formative, socially and developmentally as well as academically. Agree or disagree?

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