Early college program a win for students, community

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 18, 2016

Beginning next school year, select students at Dowagiac Union High School will have the opportunity to get ahead on their primary AND secondary education, through the district’s new early college program.

A collaboration between Dowagiac Union Schools, Lewis Cass ISD and Southwestern Michigan College, the new program will allow enrolled students to take courses at both the and SMC their junior and senior year of high school, earning credit for both their high school degree and associate’s degree. Following their senior year of high school, students will take an additional year of classes at the college while completing remaining high school coursework through online instruction, allowing them to receive both diplomas in the same year.

In addition to getting their two-year degree a year early, the program will also allow selected students to enroll at the community college completely free of charge — a tremendous benefit for students from lower income families.

The application process for this new program is expected to start this spring, according to the program coordinator with the ISD. Due to the tremendous amount of work students enrolled in the early college program will face the screening process will be rigorous.

In spite of the challenge of taking both high school and college courses simultaneously, we would encourage students with the necessary drive and determination to succeed to look into enrolling in the program.

As today’s 21st Century job market continues to expand, the demand for a college educated workforce only continues to grow. Unfortunately, despite the necessity of secondary education, the cost of attending both public universities and private colleges continues to climb.

Southwestern Michigan College and other community colleges have long provided an affordable option for students, allowing them to get a degree they could use to transfer or hit the job market without having to take out expensive student loans that are practically required by other institutions. The early college program continues this trend, only now students who choose to take on the heavy workload will be able to earn an associate’s degree without spending a single penny.

It’s a deal that many students would be wise to accept, in our opinion.

We want to applaud the district, ISD and college in partnering for this program as well. This early college program joins the other duel enrollment opportunities Dowagiac Union Schools offers its students, which in turn open new doors for them to expand their knowledge base before they even get their hands on their diploma.

As Union Schools Superintendent Paul Hartsig said, “We’re raising the level of education in the community, and the more educated a community is, the stronger that community is.”

We couldn’t agree more with that statement, and we’re glad to see that district is continuing to think not just of the future of our community’s students but the community itself as well.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.