Getting ahead: ACC experts explore four options to jumpstart college in high school

Austin Community College District (ACC) provides all high school students in the service area an opportunity to earn college credit while still attending high school at little to no cost. Our experts explore several options for students to take advantage of during their high school career.

 Written by: Tina Carver, High School Programs Enrollment and Outreach Coordinator 

Dual Credit

Traditional Dual Credit is exactly what it sounds like — students earn both high school and college credits by enrolling in ACC classes. Typically, ACC faculty will travel to the student’s high school campus to teach the course. In some cases, high school faculty are qualified to become adjunct faculty and also teach the dual credit course.

Once a student successfully completes their ACC course, they receive credit with both their high school and ACC. Dual Credit students receive up to 12 tuition courses from ACC while attending high school (pending their residence status). This allows students the opportunity to earn 36-40 hours of college credit to transfer to ACC or another institution.

Early College High School

Early College High School (ECHS) is a type of Dual Credit program. Each ECHS campus earns the distinction from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). They were initially designed by TEA to give low-income, first-generation, and at-risk students the opportunity to earn a college degree while in high school. 

The ultimate goal is for students to attain their associate degree by the time they graduate high school. Students also can become core complete, meaning they earn all their college basic credits, or successfully complete 12 hours of college credit that qualify for transfer. 

ECHS students earn their degree and credits through ACC at absolutely no cost. The partnered school district covers expenses including textbooks and transportation to and from ACC campuses. Students take the majority of their college courses on their closest ACC campus. To participate in ECHS, students must attend high school campuses that received this distinction from the TEA.

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (PTechs) follow the outline of ECHS, however, the distinction is that students can earn an associate degree, Level 1 or Level 2 certification, or an industry-based certification. 

All PTechs include an industry partner with who students can work and intern as part of their coursework. PTechs are also designated by TEA, and are at no cost to the students participating. Campuses must apply for a PTech and provide an agreement with their industry partner. Like ECHS, PTech students must attend a high school campus that received the PTech designation. 

Career Academies

Career Academies are dual credit programs that align with workforce needs. Students can earn a Level 1 certification while still in high school. This allows students to earn dual credit and be employable after completing their Career Academy. Students also receive job interview skills and preparation so they are fully ready to enter the workforce after graduation. This model allows students to work while continuing in their field of choice. 

Some Career Academies are based out of a student’s high school campus, while others are based on ACC campuses. The current active Career Academies include:

  • Health Sciences Academy (EMT, Phlebotomy and Pharmacy Tech programs), 

  • Manufacturing Academy, Biotechnology Academy (Navarro ECHS), 

  • Automotive Academy (Bastrop High School), 

  • Engineering Academy (Anderson High School),

  • Electrical Academy with TRIO Electric (Travis and Navarro Early College High Schools). 

Once students attain these certifications, they can then continue their education and stack them with other certifications to work toward their associate degree or other credentials.

ACC’s high school programs are the true on-ramp to wherever students want to go. Taking just a few courses can save students thousands of dollars, and prepare them for college. ACC provides support to help pay for classes through waivers, low tuition, and transferability. 

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