INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - For the first time, a handful of Ben Davis High School students have earned their college degrees before getting their diploma.
The students all took elective courses at the Area 31 Career Center. Starting this school year, teens who participate in the Pharmacy Technician or Precision Machining Technology programs are able to get their associate's degrees through Vincennes University.
Jaelin Compton, 17, is among the students who already picked up his college degree, at no cost.
"I feel really honored and privileged because a lot of people don’t get that opportunity," Compton said.
His first two years of college are behind him.Compton donned his cap and gown at the Vincennes University graduation about two weeks ago. According to the university's website, one year at Vincennes University costs more than $5,000.
"College is really expensive," Compton said. "To get that for free is really amazing."
The ability to save thousands of dollars is drawing people to the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township.
"I actually lived in Lawrence Township," Compton said. "We moved all the way out here because we heard about it."
The "early college" model now being offered at the Area 31 Career Center is an expansion of what the district has been offering to students since 2010 at Ben Davis University High School, a separate campus that requires students to apply for spots.
"It is just the way the district decides to use the dollars on the students," said Rebecca Daugherty, principal at BDUHS. "And, they value the program highly because they know this is going to help them be successful."
In a district where a majority of students live in poverty, access to free higher education goes a long way. BDUHS has had a 100 percent graduation rate. This year alone, 70 of the school's seniors participates in the Vincennes University graduation ceremony and got their associate's degrees.
Raven Harvey says her experience at BDUHS is letting her get a head start on her bachelor's degree. She will attend Indiana University Bloomington in the fall.
"I have 59 credits transferring right now," Harvey said. "So I’m halfway done. I will be technically a junior when I go there. So, hopefully I will finish in two years."
There is currently a wait list for BDUHS.
For more information on the early college opportunities at MSD of Wayne Township, click here.
Early college opportunities in other districts
An Indianapolis Public Schools spokesperson says the district is working on a pilot program with Ivy Tech to provide students with similar opportunities. The goal is to have the program up and running by the 2018-2019 school year.
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township is also developing its own early college experience. The McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology is in the process of aligning curriculum to the early college model and expects to do a full roll-out for the 2018-2019 school year, according to a district spokesperson.