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Friday, March 14, 2014 - 12:12am
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — A new kind of high school is catching on across the state of Texas - one that saves families thousands of dollars while also giving students a jump start on their education.
They're called "early college high schools."
The idea behind the program is to get students excited about college early on because research shows that more than 70% of students who graduate from an early college high school later enroll in college.
High school freshman Margarita Romero is an honor student at Silva Health Magnet High School, where she takes classes for both a high school diploma and college credit.
"These classes, they prepare you for the hard stuff because right now they're like pushing you and you already know what to expect so you're basically ready for the next step," said Margarita.
Schools like Silva are similar to early college high schools because both give students the college experience before they actually get there.
Burges High School is becoming an early college high school for the 2014-2015 school year, making it the 5th in El Paso County.
Mission Early College High School is another.
Students can get an Associates Degree for free even before they graduate with a high school diploma - that saves families money because they don't need to pay college tuition for the credit.
"The more college credits a student gets before they leave high school, the more likely they are to graduate from college, from post-secondary education," said Jason Long, the Principal at Mission Early College High School.
Long says early college high schools mainly target underprivileged kids.
"They might be scared about going to college because they don't think they can do it and nobody in their house has that background, and so, an early college gets them that foot in the door, they feel some success," he said.
And success in the classroom will most likely make its way into the workplace.
"They were given the opportunity to explore ideas, to discuss ideas out of the traditional high school setting where now they're working with adults. So when they come to the workplace, they've learned very important skills," said Lorenzo Reyes Jr., the Chief Executive Officer at Workforce Solutions Upper Rio Grande.
Reyes says it's a win-win situation for both students and employers.
The Texas Education Agency wants to open 44 new early college high schools across the state this year.
The first early college high school opened in Texas in 2006.
By next year, there will be a total of more than 100 across the state.