On May 9, 2019, 37 Collegiate Academy graduates will participate in Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s commencement ceremony. This is the second year the innovative program has produced graduates, allowing high school students to complete requirements for an associate degree along with their high school graduation.
The number of students graduating this year –almost three times the number of graduates from last year–demonstrates the success of the program. From only one high school participating in the pilot program, which began in 2017, to nine participating high schools and a current student total of more than 120, Collegiate Academy has become a flagship program for the college.
This year’s graduates include seniors from Pascagoula High School, George County High School, Gulfport High School and D’Iberville High School. Students from even more schools began the program this year.
“Imagine graduating from high school with not only a high school diploma, but an associate degree as well,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodward, executive vice president of Teaching & Learning/Community Campus. “Now imagine that all of the college credits earned during high school can be easily transferred, allowing the student to begin at a university as a junior. This is what Collegiate Academy is designed to offer to high school students in the college’s four-county district.”
The program is a more robust form of dual credit or dual enrollment, where students receive college and high school credit for courses they pass. The big difference is Collegiate Academy students attend one of MGCCC’s campuses on a day-to-day basis and are free to participate in college activities and groups.
To get an associate degree, students have to complete 60 college credit hours, or a full load for each of the four semesters they take, which are hours that can be transferred to a university or and/or allow students to seek an industry certification credential.
Potential Collegiate Academy students must be beginning their junior year, with a grade point average of 3.0 or above. Students must have a written recommendation from their principal or guidance counselor. The program also looks for students with high maturity levels, who have proven good citizenship and responsible behavior.
Collegiate Academy offers a customized high school experience with the rigor of college. There are eight career pathways, called meta majors, for students to choose from. They include arts and humanities, business, education, health sciences, industrial and manufacturing construction, public safety and administration, social sciences, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. Some classes are mandatory, and there are also electives, which are directed toward specific majors.
In subsequent semesters, students pick a more specific career pathway. High school counselors and college admissions officials advise students throughout their studies. MGCCC admission specialists work closely with each school district to ensure students are getting the required coursework for both college and high school. Classes are flexible, allowing students to participate in both high school and college activities and groups, excluding athletics. Collegiate Academy students also have access to the college’s Learning Resource Centers, which offer individualized attention from college instructors and a wide array of research materials.
“This program really offers an outstanding opportunity to highly motivated high school students, especially those who are seeking advanced degrees that would normally take them years to complete,” Woodward said. “Now, they have the opportunity to start these programs two years early. For many young people, that is a very appealing idea.”