February 15, 2017 - Daniel Garcia
High school students Nathan Nguyen, Katherine Fernandez, and Iris Gonzalez are discovering first-hand what college will be like.
UNM West’s Early College Program, which began in the fall of 2016, is tailor-made to Rio Rancho Public School students who are looking for opportunities to begin the next step of their academic career as early as their junior year in high school. “Freedom” and “responsibility,” say its participants, are among the traits that differentiate it from their high school classrooms.
The Early College Program offers UNM core classes to accepted students, allowing participating students to complete all of the UNM core requirements by graduation. By taking four classes at their high school campus and the three at UNM West, students acquire informed perspectives on the world of academia and a glimpse into the college lifestyle. To ensure that students applying are truly interested in participating, they must be pre-screened by their high schools and admitted to the program by UNM West. Minimum requirements include a 3.0 GPA, 22 Math ACT score, and completion of Algebra II.
First semester program data shows a 100% completion rate for fall 2016 courses, with a pass rate of 92% and an average GPA of 3.11. This success stems from many factors, one of which is the community-driven, localized education that professors at UNM West provide. Average class sizes are comparable to a high school classroom, instead of hundreds of college freshmen in a lecture hall. “When taking courses at UNM West you get to know the advisors and the people who work there” says Nathan Nguyen, from Rio Rancho High School. This small community allows for a “comfortable environment” for taking classes, says Nguyen. With a 100% completion rate, participating students are on track to receive all 37-credit hour, UNM core requirements by graduation, something that Katherine Fernandez, of V. Sue Cleveland High School says has helped her immensely. Katherine defines herself as “someone who plans to go to college and stay there for a while to get my desired degree” so, naturally having the opportunity to complete prerequisite level courses at a very little cost “has definitely helped prepare me.”
And then there’s the cost-savings. UNM West offers these courses to students for no cost, excluding course-specific fees. Textbooks are paid by the Rio Rancho Public School District. Iris Gonzalez of Rio Rancho High School says, “I like getting all the prerequisite classes out of the way, expense free, so it will be easier to go straight into a degree when I do become a full-time student after high school.”
UNM West’s Early College Program is a superb tool for any RRPS student that is interested in continuing their schooling, experiencing a new side of school or even just making their lives easier by removing the burden of general education courses when they begin college full-time. Recruitment for the 2017-2018 cohort has begun at both high schools. For more information about the Early College program contact your high school counselor.
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