Early College High Schools Program

Academic Level
Issue Area
Key Personnel
Program Focus
Dual Degree/Dual Credit/Early College High School


In 2006, South Texas College (STC) partnered with Progreso ISD (a small rural district with a high school student population of approx. 300 students) to develop an Early College High School (ECHS) Program. Schools in this program are designed under a “small school model” wherein 100 to 125 9th grade students start the program every year. Teaching and learning in all courses are based on common instructional frameworks that emphasize collaborative learning, intensive writing, critical thinking, open discussion, “scaffolding”, and mastery learning. Early College High Schools specifically target populations of students that are potential first-generation college attendees from low socio-economic backgrounds. They provide a nurturing atmosphere for students that require extra support systems and accelerated programs to help them succeed. Ideally, the 9th and 10th grade years of the ECHS student experience are designed to prepare students for college-level coursework. In the 11th and 12th grade years, students are eligible to enroll in and complete dual enrollment/dual credit courses.

Program Description

South Texas College designed the Early College High School program to provide an environment that is conducive to learning where students become more engaged, inquisitive and are able to advocate for themselves. Their objective is to provide students with a seamless transition to a four-year institution or a technical degree in a high skill, high demand career field. In keeping with the Texas Education Agency's College for All initiative—designed to ensure that students from all circumstances are successful through access to support systems—South Texas College plans to ensure that all students complete a minimum of 30 credit hours, or 60 college credit hours that leads to an associate degree through their ECHS partnerships.


South Texas College and its Early College High School partnerships are making great strides in closing the educational gap in partnership with school districts that share in the same philosophy of educational excellence and advancement. Collectively, these partnerships are breaking barriers and creating a paradigm shift, ensuring that every student is successful academically and in life.

• There are approximately 6,000 students in the pipeline successfully enrolled in college coursework. By design, this program was intended to serve first-generation, at-risk and low socio-economic status students. Of students enrolled in STC’s 30 Early College High Schools, 98% are Hispanic, and 100% of them qualify for free or reduced lunch.

• There are an estimated 950 additional students that will graduate “core complete” or with a minimum of 12 college credit hours. ECHS has steadily increased the number of seniors graduating with associate degrees from 28 in 2011 to an estimated 530 in May 2015 from nine schools.

• In total, 1,431 students have graduated with associate degrees during the last 5 years.