Governor LePage and I had the opportunity on Monday to attend Hermon High School’s kick-off ceremony for the Bridge Year Program, a pilot project set to launch 15 students on the path toward associate’s degrees starting in July.
It was great seeing the energy of the students and the administrators who are committed to making these meaningful workforce development opportunities available for students. Students in the program will be able to get nearly half of their community college credits while still in high school, and at a significant discount.
The program is a direct outgrowth of Gov. LePage’s call for five-year high school options in Maine. The Governor created a task force last year to study early college opportunities, and it found that there are a variety of options for high school students to take and receive credit for college courses while in high school, but few that offer a clear and direct path to a degree in five years.
(Three work groups are further exploring the barriers to these kinds of programs and the solutions that will make them more prevalent.)
Juniors and seniors will be enrolled at Hermon, the United Technologies Center and Eastern Maine Community College as they take classes for college credit and learn marketable skills to prepare them for the real world. Upon high school graduation, participants who stay on the same track will complete their degree in Applied Science within a year. If they want to go on for a four-year degree, the University of Maine has already agreed to accept credit from all of the courses.
Bridge Year is a model that could be replicated in other Maine schools in order to provide more options for students and to encourage their interest in post-secondary education. We at Maine DOE will be watching. More importantly, high schools throughout the state are already paying attention, looking to see if the model could work for their students, too.
— Stephen Bowen