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Denver Public Schools Expands College Access Through Five New Early College High Schools

Students Can Simultaneously Earn a High School Diploma and Associate Degree for Free 

Denver – To better prepare Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) students for success after graduation and to save families money, DPS has expanded the early college model that offers free college courses to a total of seven DPS high school campuses this year.

On Wednesday morning, DPS celebrated that five new schools received designation from the state to offer this early college model: Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College; High Tech Early College; Manual High School and West Early College. They join previously-designated CEC Early College and Southwest Early College.

“Many of our students are the first in their family to go to college and they’ll know that, when they formally enroll in college, they’ve succeeded in many college courses over multiple years as part of the early college program,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg from the celebration at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College. “And for our parents, I want you to know that, not only do your students get this opportunity, but the cost to you and your family is zero, nada, completely free!”

Through partnerships with local colleges and universities, this early college model creates an intentional pathway that can lead to a college degree. Students also have the option of completing additional years of college-only classes so long as they remain a DPS early college student. Designed to expose students to college at a younger age, students can begin taking early college courses as early as ninth grade and graduate high school with as many as 60 credits – or an associate degree – tuition free. This approach also allows students the opportunity to earn an industry certificate in an area that interests them — such as accounting, graphic design and illustration, automotive service and technology, web research and more.

“For so many students who are wondering what life is going to look like ten, fifteen years down the road – what jobs you’re going to be in? What are your dreams? What are your aspirations? This program will enable you to reach your full potential,” said Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, who worked extensively with the state legislature in bringing this model to Colorado classrooms.

One of the five goals in the Denver Plan 2020, DPS’ five-year strategic plan, is to ensure students graduate from high school college- and career-ready. The model was developed with the most underrepresented students in higher education in mind — first-generation college students, low-income students, students of color and English learners. Early college is a proven strategy for postsecondary success, as early college students are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college and complete a college degree at higher rates.

“It’s really important for me because I have the opportunity to get a lot of college credits in high school and get them for free,” said CEC Early College sophomore Jorge Medrano. “It helps my family a lot because they don’t have to pay money. It’s completely free to take those courses. And it helps me get a view of different things I might be interested in and do in the future.”

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