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District 214 students earn college credit, save money

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During her senior year of high school, Alethia Hernandez enrolled in online college classes offered through Northwest Suburban High School District 214’s new Early College Center.

The development of the Early College Center paved the way for Hernandez to concurrently earn a semester of high school and college credit while saving time and money on college tuition. Through the online classes, Hernandez said she gained skills that will help her in the future.

“(Being a part of this online program) shows that I am definitely college ready and that I have a lot potential,” said Hernandez, a 2018 Elk Grove High School graduate. “It made (colleges and universities) realize that I’m independent and I’m really ready to take on challenging courses.”

In District 214’s Career Pathways program, students have a variety of opportunities to earn college credits while in high school, significantly increasing their chances to succeed at the college level and saving them thousands of dollars.

The ultimate goal is to break down barriers of postsecondary access and affordability while ensuring students leave high school poised to excel.

Through the Advanced Placement program, students take rigorous, college-level courses and are guaranteed college credit at any public state college or university in Illinois by earning a 3 or higher on the end of year exam.

At the same time, District 214 offers more than 60 dual credit course opportunities through partnering with colleges such as Eastern Illinois University, Harper College, National Louis University and Northeastern Illinois University.

In the 2017-18 school year, District 214 students earned 37,500 college credits. For students attending an Illinois public university, that figure equates to a potential savings of $12.9 million. At a state community college, it translates to $4.1 million saved.

“Through our partnerships, students are able to fully benefit from the college-level instruction which has traditionally occurred in our high schools, as well as experience new opportunities for learning,” said Dan Weidner, District 214’s director of academic programs and pathways.

“Collectively, these efforts have allowed us to increase access to and reduce the overall cost of college attendance for our students.”

The Early College Center, which opened last fall in the Forest View Educational Center, provides an opportunity for District 214 seniors to participate in a honors, online program to complete college-level coursework. Students can earn up to 16 college credits through Arizona State University.

Students must first apply to the program. Once accepted, they take an eight-week honors course every quarter, as well as a self-paced math course guided by a District 214 teacher. Students spend the mornings in their home schools and the afternoons at the Early College Center.

In the center’s first year, 18 students from different academic backgrounds enrolled in online classes. The students, all of whom are headed to college this fall, collectively earned 208 hours of college credits at Arizona State.

The classes, which include College Algebra and English Composition, are challenging, said Nigh Hardrict, who graduated from Elk Grove High School in May. But, ultimately, the courses and the experience taught Hardrict valuable lessons.

“This has helped me to be responsible and manage my time better,” said Hardrict, who heads to Valparaiso University in the fall. “Before, I was already an independent learner. But coming here, I’m understanding how college will be.”

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