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Published: Saturday, 1/15/2005

College, a little early

NOT many teenagers have what it takes to wade through high school and college at the same time. But Toledo Public Schools will give some of its brightest the chance to obtain a high school diploma and an associate's degree from the University of Toledo simultaneously in an innovative program called Early College High School.

Clearly, the district is trying to distinguish itself in a positive way after several years of academic challenges and poor test scores. TPS is ranked in the state's "continuous improvement" category now, and obviously wants to keep trending in the right direction.

TPS could become a coveted district this fall when 100 freshmen enroll in Early College High School, which is different from advanced placement courses in that students can earn actual college credit. The effort is funded with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Any interested TPS freshman can apply.

There are restrictions, though, which basically make this a needs-based program. The program was established by the Gateses, who gave $2.7 million to set up the effort in Ohio high schools, and the terms are set by them. Preference will be given to prospective first-generation college students, students at or below the poverty level, and students who are historically under-represented in college.

Each year, 100 more freshmen will be enrolled in Early College High School. They won't have to pay UT's $7,067 tuition, but they must do the required high school work as well as the college work. The bulk of college studies will be done in the students' junior and senior high school years.

Many students will prefer not to rush the college experience and won't apply for a spot in the program. Others are simply not ready for it during their high school years.

But for those who are, this could be a ticket to a better life.

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