EAST PROVIDENCE — In its 20-plus years the Early Enrollment Program (EEP) at East Providence High School has never been bigger or better, allowing students the chance to earn college credits in an enhanced classroom atmosphere and at extremely affordable prices.
The program, conducted under the auspices of Rhode Island College and directed at the high school by Ana Melo, currently offers eight classes in four disciplines — Science, World Languages, English and History. The English offering is a college writing course run in conjunction with the University of Rhode Island. In time for next fall, the offerings increase to 11 with the addition of two Music classes and an additional History course.
“With this program we maximize the World Language experience for students here at the high school and we offer other departments the opportunity to participate,” said Ms. Melo, who teaches Portuguese at EPHS and is the on-site coordinator for EEP.
Most colleges and universities that acknowledge the program give students three credits upon completion of the course with a grade of B or 3.0. Some will accept a C or 2.0. This year, the cost of the classes per credit was $60, a quite modest sum when compared to $1,000-plus per three-credit class in-state students pay for the same offering at RIC.
“It does save you a lot of money, paying just $60 per credit. It’s worth it. It’s always nice to save money,” said EPHS senior Brian Faria, currently taking a U.S. History section and who will attend RIC in the fall.
Just about every student involved in EEP referenced the money they and their families will have saved. They also spoke about the value of gaining an insight into the college experience while still attending high school.
“I’m going into college with more confidence. I’ve taken classes some other kids haven’t taken yet,” said another senior and future Endicott College student Lindsee Allienello, who is also taking U.S. History along with URI Writing. “I wish I had done EEP sooner.”
Victoria Melo, a senior who heads to Salve Regina University in the fall, used EEP to her advantage, earning 11 credits, which is almost an entire college semester’s-worth, while completing classes in Portuguese and URI Writing.
“I really like taking the classes here because you’re able to ask the questions you need to know before you get into college. You learn so much about what it’s like to take classes in college here,” Ms. Melo said.
The notion of understanding what it takes to survive and thrive academically at the college level is at the heart of the program, according to the EPHS teachers involved in EEP.
“It’s a really good program because the students experience the type of writing they’re expected to do in college,” said EPHS English teacher Heather Coughlin, who instructs a class in the URI Writing program. URI Writing comes at a slightly higher cost, $190, per three credits.
“We have a section of the course in Rhetorical Analysis. Professors in college expect kids to know how to write a rhetorical analysis. They don’t tell them how to do it. We teach them how to here,” Mrs. Coughlin added. “By taking the EEP classes, I think it takes a little pressure off the kids. It lets them ease into college, go a little slower if they want because they already have earned some credits.”
EEP also introduces students to professorial teaching and grading methods said Lori Kiley-Garcia, who like Mrs. Coughlin is an EPHS English teacher and URI Writing instructor.
“I think the kids really grow in their understanding of what’s expected of them. They exchange their work. We have discussions about their drafts. They’re really critical in their analysis,” Mrs. Kiley-Garcia noted. “And their criticisms are spot on. They’re comments are really close to something I or a college professor would say.”
In the same critical way, EPHS teachers involved in the program are closely monitored by their peers at RIC and URI. The instructors attend training sessions run by their college colleagues. Through EEP, the teachers are considered adjunct professors in their subjects.
“The staff is of high quality. They must have a Masters (degree) or more in their subjects. (EEP) is highly structured,” Ms. Melo noted.
EPHS History Department Chairman and EEP U.S. History instructor Michael Silva encourages more students to utilize the program as much as possible.
EEP classes are open to all seniors and those juniors who qualify. For instance, World Language students must have completed the most advanced level offered in the discipline in high school, like Level Four in Spanish, to participate. Students who have reached Level Four Spanish, as an example, are near fluent in the language, can speak, read and write it and are able to critically analyze it, according to Ms. Melo.
“We’re expanding the program next year. We’ll have an extensive catalog of classes they can take. This is a great opportunity for kids to earn as many college credits as they can before they get there,” Mr. Silva said. “If they play their cards right, they can graduate high school with up to 30 credits or more and can save their parents or themselves a lot of money in the process.”