HELENA – Carroll College and Helena School District leaders gathered Friday to announce a partnership that will give local high school students a new opportunity to try college classes.
Carroll president John Cech and Helena superintendent Jack Copps signed an agreement to launch Carroll Early Access. Beginning this fall, Helena and Capital High School juniors and seniors will be able to take selected college courses, on the Carroll campus, alongside Carroll students.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Cech said.
Cech said one of the main goals is to remove barriers to higher education. Carroll is waiving tuition for Early Access classes.
“We view it as an investment in the community of Helena,” said Cech. “The more kids we can have thinking about college, thinking about their future opportunities for learning – that’s a win. That’s a win for Helena, and it’s a win for Montana.”
Though tuition will be free, students will pay a $60 fee per semester that will give them a Carroll student ID and access to parking, the library, athletic events and other services. They will also be responsible for buying their own books and supplies.
Students will have to maintain a GPA of 3.25 to qualify for Early Access. They must get approval from their high school counselor and a parent or guardian.
Cech said the program will give students a key head start to their college careers. He said some Early Access participants will be able to take up to eight classes in high school – allowing them to potentially graduate college in three years.
“Research shows that students who take college-credit courses while they’re in high school are more likely to enroll in college, they’re more likely to persist and they’re more likely to graduate,” he said. “We would love it if they came to Carroll, but we would also feel it was equally successful if they enroll in the Montana University System or any other unit in the state of Montana.”
The Early Access program comes in addition to Carroll’s existing dual-enrollment agreements, which let students receive high school and college credit for a course taught at the high school by a high school teacher. Carroll currently offers dual enrollment in math and computer science for students at Helena High, Capital, St. Andrew School and Loyola Sacred Heart High School in Missoula.
Copps said Early Access will be a new type of opportunity for local students.
“For students to come to Carroll – not only to be on the campus, but to actually sit in a Carroll College classroom with students from across the country, to really enjoy an authentic experience on a campus – that’s different,” he said.
Leaders expect the Early Access classes may fill up quickly. An open house will be held at Carroll on August 7. Carroll and Helena Public Schools staff will be on hand to answer any questions and help students register.
“That clearly is the best moment for students to make sure that they have a conversation with the counselors, so they can make adjustments in their schedules to make sure that they can take the classes that they want,” Copps said.
Cech expects about 35 different classes to be available through Early Access. You can find a full list of available courses and more information about the program at the Carroll website.