Founded in 2018, ASU Preparatory Academy offered everything a traditional online high school experience did, with one caveat — easily accessible college credits.
Due to a close partnership with Arizona State University, the academy instituted a concurrent enrollment program which allowed for students to earn credits toward a high school diploma and receive college credits at the same time. This is available for students across the Valley.
“The students don’t pay tuition to another school. This is their school of choice, and they get a diploma through us. Those students are able to receive a waiver to take two classes per semester at the university,” said Karen Sanderson, learning success coach at ASU Preparatory Academy. “They take a combination of high school and college classes. When they take those college classes, it transfers back to the high school transcript as a credit.
“So, it’s really nice for the students who want our diploma, but also then to start building up their ASU transcripts.”
Only a few students took advantage of the concurrent enrollment at first, but the program then took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many students flocked to ASU Prep as a beneficial educational option during a time when online learning was at its peak.
“As the years have progressed and word has gotten out a lot of families come because they were talking to another family,” she said. “But now, last year, that’s about 25% of my kids that took at least one class and 40%. So, it’s only been, I think, four or five years, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Along with the size of the classes increasing, the quality of the students the school was producing, Sanderson said, increased similarly. By giving an abundance of demographics a free way to earn college credits, students took advantage of the accessibility of the program.
Sanderson named one student who was able to amass 78 college credits through their time at ASU Prep, essentially making that student a senior in college.
“I mean, that’s huge,” Sanderson said. “Out of all the reasons to take the ASU classes, the No. 1 reason why families do this is financial.”
This model of getting their students into college-level education while still in high school has presented many benefits. While enrolled in the university class, the advisers at ASU Prep are “hands off,” allowing for the student to grow in their independence — something that Sanderson said the school feels is beneficial to their growth and success.
“I think it’s amazing, I really do,” Sanderson said. “At the high school, there’s a little bit more hand holding. We accept late work. We’re very flexible to meet the needs of all of our students. But then when they get to that university level, it’s serious.
“I think that definitely prepares them for life after high school. I would say 99% of these kids are going to be going to university when they graduate from high school, but they are going to be way ahead of the rest in terms of understanding time management and understanding how to reach out to professors.”
To be a part of the concurrent enrollment program, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to take two college-level courses per semester. The school aims to have every student graduate with at least 15 college credits completed at no cost.
ASU Prep’s goals to help students attain college credits was working in 2023, as 45% of the students took college courses and compiled 3,712 college credits in total. These numbers alone are staggering to Sanderson, who said the work is rewarding, as she gets to watch each student start their path to success through ASU Prep.
“I love it so much because I don’t ever really get to meet them until they graduate from high school,” Sanderson said. “To me, the most rewarding thing is to get the kids that started here and went there toward the end. And then taking ASU class is the cherry on the top.”