Many high schools and higher education institutions across the country are working to accelerate the creation of effective K-12-to-college pathways—whether that college experience includes technical school, trade certifications, or a two- or four-year college or university.
One community college in Houston, Texas, discovered a unique way to bridge the gap between high school and higher education for students in its community. San Jacinto College recognized that many students who were enrolling in the institution were not quite college-ready. Something needed to be done to ensure that students were set up for success.
In 1998, San Jacinto College began a partnership with the Clear Creek Independent School District (CCISD) in Houston to teach dual-credit courses within the district’s high schools. The dual-credit courses began in the fall of 1999 and were taught directly on the CCISD high school campuses, eliminating access barriers for students.
After several years of the successful dual-credit program, CCISD opened the Clear Horizons Early College High School in fall of 2006. In this high school, an associate degree is completed simultaneously within the student's four years of high school, allowing students to simultaneously complete college-level courses while also meeting the requirements to get their high school diploma.
In the fall of 2008, San Jacinto took things a step further for all CCISD students. The college introduced an Educational Planner, a full-time San Jacinto College employee housed within two CCISD high schools and dedicated to working directly with high school students on transitions to college. Since CCISD uses Naviance by Hobsons, the Educational Planner is able to use this resource to provide intentional guidance on helping students identify their strengths and interests, connect those to careers, and develop a plan for life after high school in order to achieve those goals.
Today, nearly 420 students have participated in CCISD’s dual-credit program. The Clear Horizons Early College High School has nearly 439 enrolled students, and the district continues to work with San Jacinto College and the Educational Planner to build out its college and career program.
CCISD, San Jacinto College, and their students have experienced tremendous benefits as a result of establishing the partnership:
Benefits to Clear Creek ISD
- Reduced financial pressure. Dual-credit participants receive deeply discounted course rates – nearly 70 percent off of college tuition.
- Dedicated college prep high school. Students enrolled in the Clear Horizons Early College High School do not pay for tuition or textbooks, and they are able to get an associate degree for free.
- Ability to facilitate a college-going culture. San Jacinto’s dedicated Educational Planner provides CCISD with an extra staff member to help focus on the middle 60 percent of students who may otherwise be overlooked. This educator’s sole focus is to help to build out the district’s college and career readiness program.
- Fewer access barriers. Students enjoy easy access to college applications, college placement exams, and financial aid experts, directly on their high school campuses.
- Less Remediation. College prep courses are supported by San Jacinto College, eliminating the need for many students to take developmental courses in their first year of college.
Benefits to San Jacinto College
- More exposure to students. San Jacinto College has experienced a 950 percent increase in students participating in dual-credit classes since the partnership with CCISD began.
- Increased enrollment. Students are able to complete their college application and any other college admissions documents at the high school. Student enrollment at San Jacinto has increased by more than 100 students every couple of years.
- Stronger student success. Roughly 96 percent of Clear Horizon Early College High School students receive associate degrees before graduating with their high school diploma. Valedictorians are attending institutions such as Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and West Point after high school.
- Connectivity in the community. Establishing the Educational Planner directly at the high schools allows San Jacinto College to educate students and families about the many degree options available at the college.
- More college-ready students. Research shows that students needing remediation in college have very low college completion rates, but students in CCISD are arriving at college better prepared to succeed in reaching their educational goals.
Students are best served when there is continuity between high schools and higher education institutions. More partnerships of this type can help more students consider community colleges while helping colleges improve their retention and graduation rates. Working together, high schools and community colleges can improve college access, readiness, persistence, and graduation.