Entering its third year, Rockwood School District's Early College Partnership (ECP)
is already showing some impressive results.
The ECP is a joint venture between Rockwood and St. Louis Community College-Wildwood. Juniors in the district's four high schools can take two years of dual-enrollment classes to earn their associate degrees. The first cohort of students graduated from the program earlier this year.
Once those students started applying for four-year colleges, they learned that nearly all of their ECP credits would carry over, giving them significant head starts on their college careers. That holds true for in-state and out-of-state schools. ECP students are enrolled at schools such as Maryville, Missouri S&T, Saint Louis University, Bradley, Baylor and DePaul for the fall, to name a few.
"It means huge cost savings for the students and the families," said Todd Minichiello, coordinator K-12 guidance and counseling
. "When they get to their four-year university, the research is showing us that our kids are going to be more successful because they've already taken college classes. That freshman year isn't going to knock them out."
Minichiello says with nearly all of their credits transferring, ECP students can access a number of possibilities in college. They can earn a bachelor's degree in two years, double major in three and be well on their way in a master's program or partake in semester- or yearlong internships in four.
The credits earned through ECP will allow them to start taking second- or third-year classes in their chosen majors when they first step foot on campus.
"Then, in that first year on the four-year campus, they'll be able to see if this major is right for them," Minichiello said.
The second cohort of 30 seniors starts its final year in the program this fall, while a new cohort of 30 juniors begins its first year. Minichiello said the ECP is also accepting 10 students from the Parkway School District this year as a way to help Parkway start the process of creating an ECP program of its own. In return, Parkway will begin accepting Rockwood students into its Spark! experiential learning program so Rockwood can move toward creating its own version.
"An early college program is the wave of the future," Minichiello said.