TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa Community College and Union Public Schools announced plans Wednesday for a pilot program allowing students to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time. 

The initiative, called Early College High School, is an expansion of concurrent enrollment opportunities already available at Union Collegiate Academy.

“As the leader in Oklahoma with nearly 2,000 concurrent students, we believe this pilot will serve as a statewide model for how students can complete high school and college,” said TCC President & CEO Leigh Goodson, Ph.D. “We know from TCC’s numbers that students who take college courses while still in high school are more likely to graduate high school and earn a college degree.”

The program still needs approval from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education but is anticipated to start in the 2018-2019 academic year. 

The students selected to participate will complete a rigorous college prep curriculum in 9th grade before they enter Early College High School. The students will move through the pilot as a group with a specified course sequence and schedule.

“The Early College High School pilot program at Union Public Schools has a strategic emphasis on recruiting "first generation" college students,” said Union Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler. “TCC has been a terrific partner in offering concurrent enrollment opportunities at Union Collegiate Academy, and this is the next step in the evolution of that program.”

The college courses will be taught by TCC faculty and supported by Union educators and staff. Both education institutions have agreed to share costs associated with the pilot program and study the outcomes for two groups of students for four years.

“By offering high school students the chance to earn an associate degree, I believe we can grow the pipeline for students entering college and improve Oklahoma’s graduation rates,” said Hartzler.

The pilot program anticipates starting with 50 to 60 entering sophomores and requires additional academic work including summer courses to complete all the college-level work.

“This is the first pilot of its kind in size and scope in Oklahoma, and it involves the third largest college and the sixth largest high school in the state. We are very excited about what this means for our students, our community and our ability to produce high school and college graduates ready for the workforce,” said Goodson.