By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools officials can already check a New Year’s goal to establish an early college program off their lists.
In December, DPS Supt. Brian Whiston sent a message to the community about the district-wide Collegiate Academy Five Year Program on tap this fall semester.
The program will give interested students from Fordson, Edsel Ford and Dearborn high schools the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in Applied Arts or Applied Science.
DPS Communications Coordinator David Mustonen said creating the program has been one of Whiston’s goals since he became superintendent in 2008.
“He said this is the kind of program that would be beneficial to students,” Mustonen said. “We’ve (received) good reactions and very positive feedback from both students and parents. Parents really like the aspect of saving some money.”
The state-funded program, a partnership between DPS and Henry Ford Community College, will begin in 11th grade through “13th grade,” a college freshman equivalency; the Michigan Department of Education approved the program last summer. It is free to students.
The state will provide an extra year of regular per-pupil funding for CAFYP.
For program eligibility, all DPS 10th-graders are required to take the Plan test, a forerunner to the ACT, in the spring. The test results will determine if students are eligible to attend the CAFYP, Mustonen said.
“Achieving those scores shows that a student will most likely be successful in the coursework and classes that lie ahead in the program,” Mustonen said.
Mustonen said by this spring, school administrators will know which 10th-graders are eligible for the program.
Currently, the accredited program does not have an enrollment limit.
After students graduate from the program they can immediately work or transfer their credits to a four-year college or university, Mustonen said.
Whiston said in his message that the program is beneficial to everyone.
“(We are) adding more choices for our students, meeting their learning needs, and challenging all students to achieve beyond their expectations,” Whiston said.
DPS teachers will teach a number of the program’s classes at the respective high schools and HFCC professors will teach several classes on campus.
Juniors in the program will attend one class at HFCC and their college course load will increase every year; by their 13th year, students will have all their classes — except for one high school class — at HFCC.
A few typical class subjects are U.S. economics, math and humanities.
“The biggest part of the program was (the) partnership with Henry Ford Community College,” Mustonen said.
“They have been receptive to the idea and they are a great partner for us.”
Mustonen said the program may not fit students who have other career or educational plans.
“For those students who have a plan and … want to go off to a four-year university right out of high school, this program isn’t for them,” Mustonen said. “And that is OK. Our job is to provide as many options to students to meet their academic needs.”
Students also may withdraw from the program through the 11th grade up to the first semester of 12th grade, according to www.dearbornschools.org.
A comparable program to the CAFYP is the Henry Ford Early College, a five-year middle/early college high school curriculum that started in 2007 with approximately 40 ninth-grade students.
The program prepares students for a career in the healthcare field and they may either earn an associate’s degree or certificate. HFEC is a collaboration between DPS, HFCC and the Henry Ford Health System.
Mustonen said that in the CAFYP students’ 12th and 13th year they will be dually enrolled at HFCC.
“While they are in their 11th and 12th grade they can still take part in school clubs, activities, sports and other school-related interests,” Mustonen said. “They don’t lose that home identity. That is important to a lot of kids and to a lot of parents.”
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected].)