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A group of Colorado Springs students not only graduated from high school this spring but also earned associate degrees, certificates or college credits through the Colorado Early Colleges program.

The students are among 633 students statewide who received postsecondary credentials for free while earning their high school diplomas through Colorado Early Colleges, the state’s largest network of early college middle and high schools.

Of the 146 Colorado Springs graduates, 64 students earned an associate degree. Ninety-five percent of the graduates earned a degree, certificate or 60 or more  college credits.

Colorado Early Colleges, a nonprofit organization, consists of three middle school campuses, six high school campuses and a college direct satellite office. It also offers part-time enrollment options for on-campus and online programs to both homeschool students and students attending tuition-based schools.

Students come from across the Front Range, attending CEC schools and Colorado community colleges in and near Aurora, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Parker, Castle Rock and Inverness.

Colorado Early Colleges Colorado Springs was founded in 2007 as a tuition-free, open enrollment charter high school. Its 600 students in grades 6-12 are able to enroll in college-level courses as soon as they are ready.

Early college high schools operate differently than other schools offering concurrent enrollment, which allows students to get farther ahead in their college and career pursuits.

At CEC, there is no restriction on the number of college credits or minimum age a student needs to be to begin swapping high school classes for college courses.

In addition, collaborative advising with the student and parents, internships and apprenticeships, and Clifton Strength Finder coaching give CEC students opportunities to identify a career and pursue it as they earn their education.

Statewide, significant number of CEC students completed 60 or more college credits in preparation for a university degree. Nearly 50 percent of the CEC class of 2021 earned an associate degree during their high school career. Based on an average community college credit hour rates, CEC has saved their students’ families nearly $4 million dollars in college tuition and fees. 

“We are so incredibly proud of our graduating students as well as our faculty and staff who supported them through this challenging time,” said Sandi Brown, Colorado Early Colleges chief executive administrator. “While news headlines show so many students falling behind in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, CEC students had the resources they needed to continue to be successful and to achieve their educational goals.”