The University of Cincinnati has created an Early College Information Technology Program to tackle the lack of talent and widening skills gap in the growing field of information technology (IT). It has partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools to launch the novel program that gives Cincinnati Public Schools students the opportunity to complete their first year of the university’s IT bachelor of science degree program while still in high school and earn automatic admission to the university after graduation.
University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Laura Mitchell formalized their agreement to increase the size and diversity of the regional IT pool on Sept. 20.
The pilot program has 30 select 9th Graders from Hughes STEM High School enrolled this school year, but the agreement allows for the program to be rolled out to other Cincinnati Public Schools going forward.
“This program will help in our efforts to achieve the state of Ohio’s goal of graduating more Ohioans with college degrees,” Pinto said in a statement. “We are also proud to create an innovative program that partners with our Cincinnati Public Schools to provide students with opportunities to pursue college studies in a promising field with a high demand for workers.”
According to Professor Hazem Said, who heads the university’s School of Information Technology (SoIT), the idea of this novel program had been brought up several different times in the last 5-6 years.
“With the growing shortage of qualified and skilled talent, Dean Larry Johnson has identified the opportunity to grow the local talent pool,” Said told The University Network (TUN).
The program particularly targets active learners, hands-on students who are passionate about building computing solutions to serve the needs of people and organizations.
SoIT started identifying opportunities to develop regional talent in 2014 when, in addition to other grants, it received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to increase IT awareness through project-based activities. One of the needs it identified was enabling high school teachers to teach college courses as an area of need. To achieve that, SoIT developed a graduate certificate in information technology that offers the necessary credentials for high school teachers to begin teaching college level IT courses.
SoIT also identified a need for a direct IT pathway that leads to college credit in high school, which resulted in this new program.
“It took two years and the whole town to get all the necessary paperwork and administrative plans completed,” Said told TUN.
Participating students in the new program must complete six IT-related high school courses, as well as College Credit Plus courses in English, college algebra or pre-calculus, three hours of history, communication, social sciences or fine arts, and an introduction to co-op class during their first semester senior year. Students must have a C- or higher in all their classes to qualify for automatic admission to the university.
In the next few months, the program will announce partnerships with several other school districts. Students who complete the program will be eligible to participate in a co-op program as early as the summer they graduate high school. Those students can also earn a master’s degree in as little as four years.