The Early College Program at Saint Augustine’s University will reach a milestone when the first high school seniors graduate in May. While there is no formal evaluation of the program, administrators, faculty and students interviewed by The Falcon Forum say it has been a success.
Twenty students will remain on campus as fifth year “super seniors,” according to Dr. Ronald Brown, the university’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. Dr. Brown said he was “thrilled” that so many of the students will remain on campus.
“The professors love the Early College students,” he said. “They love the fact that the Early College students are in their classes and participating at a high level. I have not heard any negative comments from a faculty member.”
The students also help to liven up the campus and contribute to campus life in various ways – for instance, several Early College students have written for The Falcon Forum, noted Dan Holly, faculty adviser to the newspaper. “Their contribution has been invaluable,” Mr. Holly stated. “Early College students come to Falcon Forum meetings with good ideas and they are usually very responsible in terms of turning in their articles on time.”
The Early College program began at Saint Augustine’s in August of 2014. Students from Wake Young Men’s and Women’s Leadership Academies take a combination of college and high school courses on campus in the junior and senior years of high school. The program began the 2015-2016 year with 113 students at SAU.
The students graduate high school with college credits, and those who elect to remain at the university for an additional year receive a college associate’s degree and enter college as a junior.
For Early College students, Dr. Brown sees two main benefits of the program: “Two things happen: it gives them a quantum leap toward with what they want to do in the future and it assists the parents in terms of cost.” The “super senior” students are essentially still public school students and their tuition is taken care of by the public school system.
The program made a lot of sense to Brice Farrell, who decided to stay on as a super senior. “The obvious answer to why to stay is free college,” Farrell said. “I don’t want to graduate college with mountains of debt. With Wake County paying for my education, it was easy to decide to come back for another year at Saint Augustine’s.”
Those headed off to other colleges have been accepted at some of North Carolina’s top universities, including Duke University, East Carolina University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Ahmad Ameen, a graduating senior currently waiting to hear from North Carolina State University and UNC-CH, found his experience at SAU “incredibly rewarding” and agrees that the program has helped him get a jump start on college.
“Saint Augustine’s has helped me realize the expectations and responsibilities that come with college as well as developing valuable time management skills,” Ameen said. “I am so thankful for Saint Augustine’s establishing the Early College program.”
— Connor Hughes
Connor Hughes is an Early College student at Saint Augustine’s University.