While sitting in classes, Midland College students have noticed that they seem to be surrounded by students who look like high school students. Where did these students come from? How are they able to take college courses while in high school? The answer lies within a partnership between Early College High School at MC, a Midland Independent School District school, and MC.
ECHS opened in the fall of 2009 as a partnership between MISD and MC. The high school is located on the MC campus. “Students complete a rigorous academic program that includes both Pre-AP high school and college courses. At the same time, students are provided a framework of support with tutoring and mentoring that builds success,” said Karen Murdoch, ECHS principal.
In the spring semester of their eighth grade year, hundreds of Midland students begin the process of applying for the ECHS program. First, the student and their parents submit the application. Next the student and their parents are interviewed by the admissions panel who make the final selections. The process is finalized by the student and the parents signing a contract that details the commitments of being an ECHS student.
“Eighth grade students apply and are selected based on the Texas Education Agency’s criteria, which include economically disadvantaged students, minority students, English language learners and first generation students to attend college,” said Murdoch.
ECHS currently has 316 students. Approximately 1.3% of the student body is considered English Language Learners. 52.2% of the ECHS student body is considered economically disadvantaged. MC Dean of Enrollment Michael Chavez said, “ECHS breaks barriers.”
Economically disadvantaged students are able to attend because, “It is free to the students and parents. MISD and MC pay for the program, including all college tuition and textbooks,” said Murdoch.
How has ECHS affected Midland College? “ECHS has increased both enrollment rates by their attendance as well as graduation rates. Every year, we expect approximately 600 graduates, about 30 of which are ECHS students,” said Chavez. “ECHS is a good thing because it allows students to get an associate’s degree at the same time that they work to get a high school diploma. It’s also very cost effective. Ultimately, ECHS exposes students to higher education. The more exposure students have to higher education, the more influence they have on others to attend college.”
“I’ve heard professors say that ECHS students are more likely to answer questions, do their homework, and participate in class,” said Chavez.
ECHS appears to be an effective program, as approximately 30 students from ECHS’ Class of 2013 graduated from Midland College, while 86 graduated from ECHS.
In May, MC expects to have the same, if not higher, graduation rate from ECHS students as their graduating class of 2014 approaches graduation.
“ECHS not only benefits Midland College, but the community of Midland as a whole. Students are being challenged to behave, think, and work at a much higher level as they pursue an education,” stated Chavez.
Lindsey Pinkerton, ECHS’ senior seminar teacher said: “The students we have at ECHS are some of the most determined and dedicated young people I have ever come in contact with. I think it is awesome that they are getting their associates at such a young age. It will really help them get a head start in life.”