By Linda Lockhart
Four Ohio University regional campuses will be frontrunners in the state's new Seniors to Sophomores program thanks to Early Adopter Grants. The Chillicothe, Eastern, Lancaster and Southern campuses are partners with schools in their counties that were awarded the maximum $100,000 grants, which the Board of Regents announced Friday.
Gov. Ted Strickland proposed the dual-enrollment Seniors to Sophomores program in February during his 2008 State of the State Address. The initiative will help high school students earn high school and college credit simultaneously at no charge.
Students who take a full load of college courses during their senior year in high school will be able to enter a University System of Ohio institution as college sophomores, making it possible for them to secure a four-year college education at the price of just three.
"(The program's) goal is to raise the aspirations of all students, to challenge students who might feel disengaged from their high-school studies and to help students who want to accelerate their college education," Strickland said in February. "And just think about the effect on the family's budget when they save the cost of an entire year of college tuition."
Students attend the first year as commuters, while they finish high school.
"The Seniors to Sophomores initiative is a natural fit for the regional campuses and allows us to serve our communities through our mission of access and affordability," said Dan Evans, executive dean for regional campuses. "The campuses have developed close working relationships with their area schools over the years, and these collaborations result in innovative proposals that work."
The campus/local school partnerships follow:
The program must provide students an opportunity to earn at least 36 college credits as high school seniors, and school districts are responsible for ensuring that participating students also are able to earn their high school diploma through the program.
Seniors to Sophomores funds go to public school districts and community schools, which must apply with a USO partner. In addition to developing an academic model, programs must present a fiscal model that will demonstrate how they will become sustainable without ongoing state support.
Funds for the grants come from the Department of Education budget, through a line item designated to increase participation in and find solutions for the challenges identified in current Post Secondary Enrollment Options Program, often called PSEO or PSEOP. Ohio lawmakers enacted the PSEOP in 1989 for 11th- and 12th-grade students. It was expanded in 1997 to include 9th- and 10th-graders.
The concept is not without challenges -- schools grapple with issues from social readiness to transportation to academic advising to subsidies, which is why the program is being launched through early-adopter grants. Strickland hopes the first wave of participants will develop model programs that others can easily adapt to their needs. The governor wanted schools to have a menu of models and solutions to tap when programs roll out more widely.
The models also are meant to complement, not replace, other types of accelerated learning or college credit opportunities, such as Advanced Placement, Early College High School, PSEOP, International Baccalaureate and College Tech Prep.
Seniors to Sophomores contributes directly to two of the University System of Ohio accountability measures: percentage of first-time enrollees younger than age 21 with the equivalent of one semester or more of college credit earned during high school and Ohioans' total post-secondary enrollment.
Ohio University's participation in the program also aligns with Vision OHIO strategies for improving access, affordability and efficiency.