Early Scholars program sees changes

Officials approved several changes to the Early Scholars Program during the December board of trustees meeting to become more consistent with the program’s original intent in allowing area high school students to take coursework at UNA.

The program, which will soon be called the Early College Program, was approved to become a more broad-based system for a larger number of high school students, instead of only being reserved for scholars.    

Dr. John Thornell, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said officials are working to create a separate program designed specifically for scholarly and gifted high school students in the area.

Baseline qualifications to enter into and remain in the program were also set at the meeting, which include a B average for initial enrollment and C average on UNA courses for continued participation in the program. Qualified students may now take one free 3-4 credit hour class each semester.

The program will also allow 10th grade students with a composite ACT score of 22 or better to take part without paying tuition, as long as they meet the same academic standards as an 11th or 12th grade student enrolled in the program.

“I think it’s going to be a little confusing for (the students and parents) at first because of changing the program’s name, but I think eventually the participation requirements will actually help the students,” said Kim Mauldin, director of admissions. “It’s not our goal for them not to be successful. I do think that by putting the retention GPA (for students to follow), it is going to help.”

The program, which brings 40 percent of high school students back to UNA as their college of choice after graduation, requires students to pay technology, transportation, special and distance learning fees to participate. In 2011, UNA waived $428,460 in tuition for 735 high school students who participated and took classes at the university.

“The (program’s) original intention was to give students the opportunity to have a college course experience while still in high school, to challenge them and give them the chance to see what the college environment is like,” Mauldin said.

Thornell said officials are planning new ways to keep Early College participants at UNA and to deter them from transferring to other colleges and universities after high school graduation. They are planning to make participants a more vital part of UNA, with specially designed SOAR sessions, better interaction with faculty, and stronger ties to UNA’s services and student community.

Thornell hopes the revisions to the Early Scholars Program will be more aligned with its original mission. He plans for a true Early Scholars program in the future to attract gifted high school students who have exceptional academic records and talents.

“We are feeling better about the bar having been raised and set for continued participation in this program,” he said. “We hope we can get a true Early Scholars program off the ground as soon as possible.”

Changes to the program will take effect during the 2012-2013 academic year.

By the Numbers


Number of students: 735

Amount of tuition waived: $428,460

Tuition and fees paid: $8,510


Number of students: 741

Amount of tuition waived: $405,142

Tuition and fees paid: $17,535


Number of students: 668

Amount of tuition waived: $334,305

Tuition and fees paid: $13,005