Official: Early Scholars program not in jeopardy of being cut

Freshmen this fall may be surprised to find themselves in the same classroom as high school students because of UNA’s Early Scholars program.

Early Scholars is a university-funded program that pays for high school students to take up to five class hours each semester while still in high school, with the student required to only pay a technology and transportation fee of $58 for a standard three-hour class.

Early Scholars currently has approximately 300 students attending UNA while still in high school, according to Kim Mauldin, director of the Office of Admissions, with only some of the students enrolling at UNA after graduation.

“Our yield is around a quarter to a third of students who enroll here,” said Mauldin, whose office is currently in the process of recording the matriculation rate from the last three to five years. “The hardest students to get are the ones that are closest to the university.”

According to Mauldin, every student that goes through the program has to meet the same requirements as a degree-seeking student, but they cannot take online classes and must come on campus to take the courses.

“I believe part of the experience is getting on campus and meeting professors and other students,” Mauldin said. “In my mind, if the students have a good experience, it’s worth it.”

Currently, the high schools decide which students are sent through the program and which students are kept out, according to Mauldin, but the administrative side of the university is looking at making a change to that.

“We want the early scholars to be early scholars,” said Thomas Calhoun, associate vice president of academic affairs. “We don’t want to be a supplementary course of U.S. History. We don’t want to be just another high school course for them.

“The point is not to be just a credit-granting opportunity. That is not an early scholars program. That’s housing a high school at UNA.”

Calhoun said that the university is looking towards a way to make the early scholars have a certain academic average in the classes they take-for example, a B average or a similarly high GPA.

“I think the concept is great, but it does have some wrinkles to iron out,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun said though the Early Scholars program does cost the university, the program will not be cut, and in fact may have a future addition to it.

“I don’t foresee that at all,” Calhoun said about a possible cut. “I can’t think of any scenarios of that happening. This program does have a cost associated with it. We can’t incur a cost we can’t afford.

“Our university profits from positioning ourselves to attract early scholars. If anything, we are looking to expand to 10th grade.”

Students that are worried the Early Scholar students will take up precious class space shouldn’t worry, according to Mauldin, because regular students will still get the first pick at preregistration.

“By the end of preregistration, we are given the go ahead to fill up classes,” Mauldin said. “(For the fall,) students have to have paperwork in by Nov. 15.”

Several previous early scholars have returned to UNA in later years.

“It allowed me to free up my time to allow me to take classes I wanted to take,” said Dr. Miranda Bowie, an instructor of math and computer science at UNA who went through the Early Scholars program in ‘98. “It’s quite different, the amount of time you actually spend in class for college courses.”

During Bowie’s time in the Early Scholars program, she took Trigonometry, Calculus 1-3, microeconomics and U.S. Politics, which helped her to graduate with a triple major in math, computer sciences and physics.

“I really liked it,” said Ashley Stovall, a freshman student who is majoring in accounting. “It helped me to get to know the campus, know which professors not to take. Before I went to orientation, I knew where everything was.”

Stovall took three classes, including Business Software Applications and World Civilization, under the Early Scholar’s program, and though she didn’t receive dual-credit for the classes she took, she still received college credit for the classes and, according to Stovall, was able to learn which time of day she preferred to take classes.