Early College Academy

What is an Early College Academy?

  • An Early College Academy (ECA) is a high school program where interested and motivated students can complete a sequence of college-credit courses that will also count for high school graduation and earn college credit simultaneously. Upon successful completion of sufficient ECA courses, students will earn an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies from John Tyler Community College. Students can actually graduate from John Tyler Community College before they graduate from high school!

Is the Early College Academy like a specialty center?

  • No, the Early College Academy (ECA) is not a specialty center. Specialty centers offer students a high school, advanced-curriculum that allows students to explore an area of interest, such as engineering or leadership.  Each high school has at least one Specialty Center and enrollment is limited; students must apply and be accepted to a Specialty Center.  ECA is a pathway students in every high school can pursue as long as they meet the qualifications for Dual Enrollment and Advanced Placements courses and are successful in these courses.

How is it possible to earn an Associate Degree while still in high school?

  • CCPS has identified Dual Enrollment (DE) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses that count as both a high school credit and college credit. With advanced planning, students can complete courses over their high school career that meet Virginia high school graduation requirements and also fulfill the requirements for an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies from John Tyler Community College.  Typically ECA students would attempt only one or two college level courses during their freshman or sophomore years.  By junior and senior years, students would take a full complement of dual enrollment and advanced placement courses to meet the requirements for an Associate Degree in General Studies as well as high school graduation.

What type of classes earn a student college credit?

  • Students have four ways to earn college credit: Advanced Placement, Transferable Dual Enrollment, CTE Dual Enrollment, and Concurrent Enrollment.
  • Advanced Placement (AP): courses developed by College Board and recognized for college-level rigor; these courses are taught by CCPS faculty. A student must earn a score of 3 or higher on an external exam to earn college credit.  While John Tyler Community College awards credit with an AP exam score of 3, the award of credit and courses accepted vary across many four-year institutions with some requiring an AP exam score of 4 or 5. 
  • Transferable Dual Enrollment (DE): courses taught by CCPS faculty with same credentials as JTCC faculty teaching on campus. DE courses are taught using the same curriculum and materials as courses taught on campus and students are required to take semester exams for DE courses.  Where applicable, students will also have to take the state-mandated End-of-Course SOL exam.  Successful completion of DE courses earns students the same college credit as if they took the course on JTCC campus.
  • CTE Dual Enrollment (CTE DE): courses taught by Career and Technical Education (CTE) faculty. CTE DE courses are offered at both CCPS Career and Technical Centers, as well as many high schools. These courses earn college credit but these are generally not transferable to four-year institutions.  However, these credits can count toward a variety of John Tyler Community College Career Studies Certificate programs.  These programs can lead to many high-demand, high-paying technical fields that do not require a 4-year degree but do require some college training after high school. 
  • Concurrent Enrollment (CE): courses are taken by students on John Tyler Community College campus. Students complete CE courses on their own time, outside the typical school day, and students are responsible for full tuition costs.  Students must seek approval with school administration, in advance, if they wish to count any CE courses towards high school graduation.  It is important to know that while a CE course may count towards an Associate Degree or Career Studies Certificate, not all CE courses may count towards high school graduation.

Do all college credits transfer to four-year institutions?

  • All Virginia universities, as well as many private Virginia colleges, accept Transferable Dual Enrollment credit for full transfer. AP credit is dependent upon the score on the AP exam and the university’s policy on AP transfer credit.  While JTCC awards college credit for an AP exam score of 3, many universities require a 4 or 5. Additionally, the amount of credit is dependent on the score. It is important to consult with individual 4-year institutions to confirm how transfer credits are considered. 

Can students participate in the ECA program and still attend the Career and Technical Center program or a Specialty Center?

  • Specialized programs, such as those offered through CCPS Career and Technical Centers or high school Specialty Centers, frequently have added course requirements in addition to courses required for high school graduation. These additional requirements may preclude students from participating in the ECA program; students may not have room in their schedule to take sufficient DE and AP courses needed to meet the full requirements for an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies.  However, CTC and Specialty Center students should have ample opportunity to earn college credit through DE and AP courses that will transfer to JTCC to complete an AS degree or transfer to a four-year university.  

Does an AS degree guarantee admission to universities within Virginia?

  • All Virginia universities have a Guaranteed Admission Agreement (GAA) with the Virginia Community College System. While many four-year institutions extend the GAA to students earning an Associate of Science in General Studies while in high school, not every university does; however, almost all universities will accept qualifying transferable credits (a grade of C or better for DE courses or qualifying score on AP exam).  Frequently, for incoming freshmen admitted with an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies, universities waive core educational requirements and award junior status to the incoming freshman! So even if a university does not guarantee acceptance with an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies, students still have an advantage having earned an associate degree while in high school.

What other factors should be considered when thinking about ECA?

While it is entirely possible to earn an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies while a student in CCPS high schools, there are some things that must be considered.  First and foremost, this is an advanced program requiring college-level work from high school students. Students are held to the same standards as if they were taking classes on campus.  Since ECA credit also counts towards high school graduation, it is important for students to have the academic behaviors to find success in these advanced courses to assure on-time graduation.  Dual Enrollment credit, earned in high school, is part of a student’s cumulative college grade point average (GPA).  Future admission to college programs, as well as future financial aid, are dependent on a student’s GPA. Students and parents need to have very frank discussions about motivation, perseverance, and willingness to do the extra work to take advantage of this opportunity.  On the positive side, CCPS high schools will have supports in place to help struggling students; but ultimately, it is up to the student to be successful if attempting college credit in high school.