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A winning partnership

Indiana's attempt to link the former Ivy Tech Vocational College and Vincennes University as a community college system stalled from the start, but Vincennes now appears to have a winning partnership with Ben Davis University High School in Indianapolis.

The school's new early college program just graduated its first class, with 73 of 79 students simultaneously earning high school degrees and two-year degrees from Vincennes.

"What makes these students so notable is that the vast majority of them are the first in their families to attend college," reports InsideIndianaBusiness.com. "They have been part of a school designed for students who thrive in a small and supportive academic environment."

The value of an early college program is not that it works well for advanced students, but that it works for the students who might not have considered higher education in the first place. When they discover they can successfully navigate college-level courses and even earn college credit, they are more likely to continue their education after high school.

That's the case with the Ben Davis grads, according to InsideIndianaBusiness: "The majority of the school's seniors will graduate with associate degrees in areas such as liberal arts, business management, information technology, and general studies/health careers. The school's graduates have been awarded nearly $300,000 in scholarships from colleges in Indiana and elsewhere. In addition to the baccalaureate programs at Vincennes University, the graduates have been accepted by institutions that include Purdue University, Indiana University, University of Indianapolis, Butler University, and Loyola University Chicago."

The program is not the state's first. Tri-State University, now Trine University, began its middle college program in 2003. It offers classes to area high school students on the Angola campus and at their own high schools. In addition to reaching students who might be first-generation college-goers, the programs are effective in engaging bright students who are simply bored by high school and at-risk of dropping out.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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