Union College and Knox County Schools offer high schoolers an early start to college

Published on
April 30, 2013

In a pioneer move, Union College and Knox County Public Schools have entered a partnership that seeks to promote college readiness among local high school students by providing an early start into college-level coursework.

On Tuesday morning on Union’s campus, Union College President Marcia Hawkins and Knox County Superintendent Walter T. Hulett signed an agreement to launch the Union Collegiate Institute Early Start Program. Accepted students will have the opportunity to earn up to 29 credit hours in four years, free of charge.

Union College President Marcia Hawkins and Knox County Superintendent Walter T. Hulett sign an agreement for a program which enables selected Knox County students to earn up to 29 college credit hours before they graduate high school.  Pictured standing behind the schools’ leaders are several representatives from both schools who helped develop the program. From left are Diana Mills, Union College director of foundation relations and prospect research; Melissa Evans, Knox County Public Schools director of district-wide programs; Marion Sowders, Knox County Public Schools assistant superintendent; Carla Jordan, member of the Knox County Board of Education; Andelys Wood, Union College interim vice president for academic affairs; Russ Sisson, professor of religion and department chair; Summer Jackson, Union College director of undergraduate enrollment; Mona Powell, Union College director of advising; Gina Sears, Knox County Public Schools director of pupil personnel.

“Rarely does a program such as this come to fruition, and because it will not cost our students any money, their families can realize the college dream—at least the first year and a half or two years of credit—at no expense,” said Hulett. “And that’s because of the commitment of the Knox County Board of Education and Union College to make college a reality for students in Knox County.”

While similar agreements have been made in Kentucky between state colleges and public schools, this initiative appears to be the first of its kind launched by a private institution. Agreements between Union College other local schools systems have not yet been negotiated, but the college has extended open invitations and hopes to develop additional partnerships. 

“Nothing can affect change in a young person’s life like a college education,” said Marcia Hawkins, Ph.D., president of Union College. “We are privileged to provide the transformational force that a liberal arts education can precipitate.”

The program, which has been in the exploration and negotiation phases for well over a year, will officially begin during the fall 2013 semester, and freshmen through seniors will be eligible. The application process opens online Monday, May 6 at knox.kyschools.us/earlycollege. Also on May 6, Union College will host a parent workshop for program information and guidance. The session begins at 6 p.m. in the Patridge Conference Room, located in the lower level of the Patridge Student Center. The session will be repeated at the same time and location on Thursday, May 9.

The selection process includes an application, interviews and other requirements set in place for Knox County officials to submit a qualified pool of applicants. From there, Union College officials will determine which students are accepted and will recommend others to remain on a waiting list.

Freshmen who are accepted into the program will take an orientation class at their respective high schools called the Union College Experience. This course covers topics such as study skills, how to write a college paper, plagiarism, researching a topic, as well as topics concerning personal responsibility for their goals such as scheduling, financial aid, time management and coping with stress.

From the sophomore through senior years, students will attend classes at Union College’s main campus in Barbourville, earning credit hours in a broad range of liberal arts courses, collectively designed to provide students with core and enrichment courses. Many classes are open to students of all ages, while others are reserved for seniors. 

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