Early Degree Program Could Benefit UCA

UCA is filled with new freshmen faces once again. Some are eager, as many of us once were, and prepared to take the academic world by storm. Others, apparently, could not even be bothered to show up to their dorms on move-in day.
While this apathetic behavior may be expected from returning students who have been there, done that and lost the burgeoning zest for the college experience, it does seem curious that there was an increase in absent freshmen on move-in day this semester.
We hope that apathy won’t trickle into the classroom, but it does cause some concern for the overall interest in the college experience for high school students. What were their impressions of college before enrolling? Were they given a chance to consider graduation plans or learn what to expect from their classes?
Perhaps all they’ve heard is the mounting debt most college students experience, how they often feel a bachelor’s degree does little to find a job in the real world and that many feel pressured to get in and out quickly, making rash decisions for their professional futures.
UCA cannot solve these problems for incoming freshmen who have, somehow, already became slightly disheartened by college, but they could be doing more to give high school students a chance to test the waters.
 In May, ArkansasOnline reported that Greenbrier High School was the first school in Arkansas to have graduating seniors leave with high school diplomas and associate degrees from the University of Arkansas—Little Rock.
 The partnership between GHS and UALR offered students an associate degree program that allowed them to not only receive concurrent credit while in high school, as all students in Arkansas have the opportunity to do, but to also complete a degree.
As UCA campus life expands with the addition of Donaghey Hall and academic options increase with new degree programs and course material, it seems logical that the university also expand into the community. We already offer high school students options to take classes for concurrent credit, but no program exists that would allow them to complete an associate degree before college.
The appeal of associate degree programs for high school students is highly focused on its cost efficiency for lower-income families. For example, the GHS students who received their associate degrees paid UALR $50 for classes that typically cost $850, according to ArkansasOnline.
If UCA were to implement an associate degree program for high school students, many would gain an accurate collegiate experience without a rapid decline into debt. They would have an opportunity to feel out their future before realizing that, often, finances and desire do not coincide. If high school students could obtain an associate degree from UCA, many would likely receive better scholarships and would hopefully decide to attend UCA.
They would be more likely to enjoy the UCA campus environment and be prepared to deal with academic struggles, causing freshmen retention rates to increase. Our university is becoming more appealing each semester, but there is always room for improvement. Showing an interest in helping high school students could only help us perpetuate that image.
photo from http://www.fastcoexist.com/

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