Students in the Early College Alliance (ECA) program at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) believe there are both advantages and disadvantages to being enrolled. ECA is a dual enrollment program offered to high school students. The program has been actively transitioning high school aged students into an environment of collegiate level learning. The ECA faculty offices and student lounge is located toward the center of the south side of campus Julie Anne King Hall.
“ECA is definitely not high school, so some of the typical high school experiences are just not present. We also don't provide transportation, and that is a huge drawback for students who don't have access to a car or public transportation,” said Ellen L. Fischer, ECA Principal.
ECA is recognized by the Michigan Department of Education as a four plus one program which gives students the ability to stay an additional year to complete more schooling. The ECA program started in 2007 with approximately 40 students, and approximately 435 students will be enrolled this year.
“ECA has pushed me outside of my comfort zone. You are in control of your gains and losses, so it teaches you to work wisely,” said Sedona Brown, first year ECA student. “The ECA program brings strength out of you that you didn't know was there. It pushes you hard, but it’s for your own well being. You grow in areas you thought were perfect before,” she said.
The ECA program facilitates a learning environment where students that excel are capable of graduating high school with college credits. Administrators, and CORE advisors play roles in educating ECA students and preparing them for college courses.
“My only drawback from being an ECA student is not spending more time on myself for myself,” said Brown. “ I am usually always spending my time on campus, for classes, but I wouldn’t change anything about ECA because I think the positives outweigh the minor negatives,” she continued.
Students can choose to participate in extracurricular activities at their original high school, or ECA offers activities, such as a school dance. Several students attending ECA expressed a lack of a social life and a lack aide being offered to help ease the social transition of students from high school to the college environment.
“Of our 2010 and 2011 grads who continued at EMU 68% have earned their degrees. In addition, the completion rates are very consistent across demographic subgroups--our graduates have completed degrees at basically the same rate regardless of race, economic status, or gender. Our students finish with an average of about 58 EMU credits and EMU GPA of around 3.2.” said Ellen L. Fischer, ECA Principal.
ECA gives students the potential to graduate from high school with a diploma and up to 60 college credits. ECA is funded through a portion of each school district's foundation allowance.
“I don't think anything I have ever done has better prepared me for college and life after college like ECA did,” said ECA alum Joshua Starr, Student Body Vice President. “ If you survive the program, which isn't easy, you will become a lean mean multi-tasking genius. I don't think my progression through college as an RA, Student Body Senator, Board of Director, Student Body Vice-President and many many others would not have been possible if it were not for ECA,” he continued.