The computer lab at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell will be a place for University High School early college students to study and do homework in between classes or on days off. (Dylanne Petros Photo)
Students will have the chance to get a head start on their college education this year with the Eastern New Mexico University Early College Program.
The program allows students to start earning college credit, along with their high school credit, at the beginning of their high school career.
“The concept is …to complete their…four years of high school with an associate’s (degree) and a high school diploma all at the same time,” said Porter Cotrell, University High School principal.
The program has been in the works for a year now and gives the students the opportunity to be in a college environment, as the program will be held at University High School and Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.
“We’re really excited about this early college high school model. It has career pathways that lead to jobs within our community that are those high-paying jobs,” said Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Tom Burris.
For the first two years, students will attend UHS where they will be taught by adjunct professors. The professors are UHS teachers who have been certified as adjunct professors.
“The great thing about that is (teachers are) able to weave the benchmarks and standards … that the state wants us to have. Like in junior English, we can even incorporate it into English 101 or whatever if we want to teach a dual credit English during one of those parts of those deals,” Cotrell said. “This gives us the ability to kind of blend the best of both worlds.”
Students who enroll in the early college program will have their schedule tailored made just for them, Cotrell said.
Although one credit hour at ENMU-R is $199 before the cost of textbooks or school fees, the program is free to the students that do the early college program.
“This is a lot of win right here for kids who want … to really get serious, this is the lottery win, I think,” Cotrell said.
During the early college program, students can either work for an associate’s degree in fields such as auto technology, industrial engineering technology, aviation technology or health, or they can take general education classes.
Students also can play sports for their home school while enrolled in the early college program.
“You’re legally allowed to play at whatever your home school is,” Cotrell said.
The schools are not trying to do this for a profit, though. Roswell Independent Schools are trying to help every student in the district.
“Not every kid is going to go to college. Some kids are going to do the career technical pathway and … the more of this that we offer, I think the better off we are,” said Burris.
Cotrell and UHS are working hard to find the students that want to put forth the effort since college may be harder for some students. Since the program starts during students’ freshman year of high school, they have to know what they want as well, Cotrell said.
“You gotta plan ahead and you gotta work at it,” he said. “It’s not a gimme.”
Students who have already enrolled in the early college program understand what they are signing up for.
Madison Benedict will be attending UHS for the program in the fall so he can get ahead in a mechanics career.
“None of the other high schools, like, really had a mechanics career for college,” he said.
Benedict learned about the program when he went on a field trip to ENMU-R with Berrendo Middle School.
When he came home after the field trip, he told his parents that he wanted to do the program and they were supportive.
“When we heard it was up and running, we wanted to be a part of it,” said Bobbie, his mother.
She thinks the program will help her son mature and “buckle down.”
“I like the school and I like the small classes and I think he’s going to have a good relationship with lots of different people and peers and hopefully mentors,” she said.
For students to get involved with the Eastern New Mexico University Early College Program, all they need to have is good grades, good work ethic and a good attitude, she said.
“All we’re really looking for is a few kids with a GPA of … 2.5 or better that can put their hand up and say ‘yeah, man, I really want to work at it,’” Cotrell said.
Kids who enroll in the program this year as well will receive their own laptop to use in classes since a lot of their work will be on Blackboard, a program online used by universities to post assignments, grades and announcements.
“These kids will come out of this program with an associate’s degree and possibility certifications in different areas so that their job market is much wider,” Burris said.
UHS starts Aug. 14 and they are still accepting students for the early college program. If students are interested in the program or filling out an application, they can call 575-627-2752.
“Whatever you want to do, you have all different opportunities here at Eastern and all it takes is for you to get out here for us to customize a plan that’s going to work for you,” Cotrell said.