Miami University Regionals created Early College Academy, a new dual enrollment program starting this year, to give local students new opportunities to reach their college goals and close long-standing equity gaps in college completion rates for students of color.
Early College Academy (ECA) gives high school students the chance to earn a two-year degree at no extra cost while they complete their high school credits.
This fall, the program will launch its first cohort of 27 students from Hamilton and Middletown high schools. They will enroll in 15 credit hours each semester at Miami Regionals during their junior and senior year of high school. Tuition and fees will be covered by the program and transportation and lunch will be provided by their high school.
Miami Regionals Vice President Ande Durojaiye said ECA is an important piece in Miami’s commitment to accessible higher education for everyone living in southwest Ohio.
"Providing educational opportunities for the citizens of our region is core to our mission at Miami University," he said. "Programs like the Early College Academy promote upward social mobility for all members of our community."
Alicia Justice, director of Dual Credit Programs, said the program augments services already available to high school students through the College Credit Plus (CCP) Program to help students from underrepresented backgrounds earn a degree.
"Although CCP offers high school students the chance to get college credit early and save on costs, there is still a large equity gap in the students who participate," she said. "The ECA program goes further. ECA offers enhanced services to help students who might not have traditional supports at home, so they can complete a degree without taking on debt."
Each ECA student will be assigned a student success coach and will have access to various academic services at Miami. These supports are designed to help ensure students don’t fall through the cracks in the system as they navigate unfamiliar situations and material. They also will have dedicated space on each campus, and the chance to participate in extracurricular activities at Miami Regionals and at their high school.
In addition, students who earn their associate degree will have scholarship opportunities to continue their education at Miami to earn a four-year degree. If they choose to move to a different school, their credits will easily transfer to any public university in Ohio as part of the Ohio Transfer Module. They can also choose to go directly into the workforce.
So far, Hamilton and Middletown high schools are the first to participate, but Justice said area school district superintendents have shown strong interest in the program.
ECA is one of the first programs of its kind among southwest Ohio colleges and universities, but more are on the way. They are part of state and national initiatives to close gaps in higher education that have historically left students of color and first-generation college students behind, making them more vulnerable to student loan debt and limiting their career choices.
"The Early College Academy is an amazing partnership between Miami and southwest Ohio schools that will promote equity, access, and opportunity for young people in our region," said Elizabeth Mullenix, Miami’s interim provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. "The talented faculty at Miami Regionals are compassionate mentors and disciplinary experts. How wonderful that high school students can engage with faculty at the college level and that faculty can work with local youth. This is a win-win!"
A national effort led by the Education Advisory Board (EAB) called Moon Shot for Equity aims to change this dynamic and increase the number of college graduates from underrepresented populations by 2030. By providing programs designed to meet each student’s academic and financial needs, EAB hopes to make the process of earning a degree less daunting.
If you are interested in financially supporting this program with scholarships for ECA students to complete their bachelor's degree, please contact Yvette Kelly Fields at kellyfy@MiamiOH.edu or 513-727-3463.