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CAST Tech High School students can now take classes in their desired degree programs as part of a new partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio, a program officials touted as “one-of-a-kind” Tuesday.

The university and the Centers for Applied Science and Technology Tech High School created the Early College Academy to give students the opportunity to earn college credits that will count toward their degrees at UTSA, reducing the cost of college for families and accelerating students’ paths to their careers. This is the first semester CAST Tech students can enroll in the academy.

So far, 119 CAST Tech students are taking part in the academy this year, which is 47% of the senior class, 36% of the junior class, and 21% of the sophomore class. The program is not offered to freshmen.

Melissa Alcala, Cast Tech principal, said the Early College Academy is unique because it allows students to take the college classes they want instead of the typical dual credit courses offered, such as English and calculus. Students are not locked into a specific degree program but can take courses in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, College of Engineering and Integrated Design, and the College of Sciences.

“By your senior year, you’re able to dabble in what is potentially your college major and take that first course,” she said.

More than 45% of the CAST Tech class of 2021 earned college credits from UTSA, according to the school.

In addition to its dual credit partnership with SAISD, UTSA has programs in Harlandale ISD, North East ISD, the Henry Ford Academy, and the Geneva School in Boerne. Its largest partnership is with SAISD, where UTSA offers dual credit at CAST Tech, Fox Tech High School, Lanier High School, Jefferson High School, Brackenridge High School, and Burbank High School.

UTSA also has early college academies at Fox Tech for politics and law; Lanier and Jefferson for architecture, interior design, and construction science and management; and Brackenridge for education. An additional early college academy exists at MacArthur High School in North East ISD for education. 

UTSA will roll out dual credit partnerships with Northside ISD and Houston ISD for the 2022-2023 school year. 

Taylor Eighmy, UTSA president, said the Early College Academy showcases the university’s commitment to building a bridge for students to graduate from UTSA and get high-demand tech jobs in San Antonio.

“This is a wonderful example of a four-year institution and a high school institution working together to speed up the provision of young people who can work in our economy,” he said. “If we’re doing our job right, we’re helping to grow the economy, but we’re also providing young people with occupations in that economy.”

Eighmy said the next steps will be deeper collaborations between higher education institutions and K-12 school systems.

Graham Weston, Rackspace co-founder, agreed that San Antonio higher education institutions need to expand opportunities for younger students.

“We need to give opportunities to a much broader swath of young San Antonians on all sides of town, and all of South Texas can benefit,” he said.

Weston said the academy will help build San Antonio’s tech community by creating a “pipeline of tech talent” and the “tech skills of the future” are in the programs UTSA is offering through the new program, such as data science, computer science, and engineering.

“Companies create jobs in a city because of the brain power it has,” he said. “This is a cornerstone to building a vibrant tech community in San Antonio.”

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.