The annual celebration promotes high school designs that give students an early start on the path to college.

SALISBURY, N.C. — Early college high schools are succeeding in facing one of our nation’s biggest educational challenges – propelling students from under-served backgrounds to graduate from high school and earn post-secondary degrees.

Early College High School Week, taking place each April, is an annual celebration of the outstanding achievements and progress made by early college schools.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s early colleges have impressive success rates, especially when comparing student success to a traditional high school. In fact, Rowan County Early College had a 100 percent high school graduation rate the past two years and last year’s Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College seniors were awarded more than $4 million in scholarships at four-year colleges and universities across the country.

Additionally, the College opened its third early college high school in fall 2016 at the College’s Cabarrus Business & Technology Center (CBTC) on Highway 29 in Concord.

“We had a large number of applicants every year and we weren’t able to accept all of them. We were turning away about 120 students, so we knew we needed to expand,” said Vance Fishback, the first principal at the Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College who has taken on the role as principal of Cabarrus Tech. “We saw an opportunity to put the school on the Cabarrus Business and Technology Center campus and with the courses that are offered there, we decided to make it a STEM early college.Early college is part of the “Learn & Earn” initiative launched by North Carolina Governor Mike Easley in 2004. It provides the opportunity for students in grades nine through 12 to earn both a high school diploma and a two-year degree or two years of transferrable credit in four or five years, tuition free. It is designed to attract students who are often under-represented in college: minorities, students from low-income families and those whose parents never attended college.

“We have a truly great opportunity here to help more of our current high school students achieve their goals. Getting started on a college education while still in high school is the best way to do that because it is tuition-free!” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.

During Early College High School Week, early college high schools and their nationwide partners bring together students, teachers, administrators, parents, local community leaders, and legislators to collaborate and highlight early college schools in their communities.

Far too many young people graduate from high school unprepared to succeed in college and today’s global economy. Early college high schools tackle the issue of college readiness directly, by offering the opportunity for students to experience college coursework while still in high school. These schools embrace acceleration over remediation, providing a rigorous curriculum, engaging instruction, student support programs, and a “college for all” culture.

“Our hope is that this week will serve as a platform to continue to spread the successful implementation of early college schools, in order to improve outcomes for even more students in the future,” says Jobs for the Future Vice President Joel Vargas, who leads the national nonprofit organization’s School and Learning Designs team. “We applaud the school districts and colleges that have adopted these strategies and have become a major proponent as to how so many high school students have gone on to attain post-secondary degrees and pursue thriving labor-market driven careers.”

Over the past decade, Jobs for the Future and their partners have created or redesigned 280 early college schools serving more than 80,000 students.

“Early college students set themselves on a strong path toward earning both their high school and college education,” said Spalding. “We are proud of these students and encourage more parents and students to consider ways for their students to take advantage of this program.”

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit or call 704-216-RCCC (7222). The College is currently registering students for classes for the summer and fall terms.