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Colorado Early Colleges give students a jump on higher education

Colorado Early Colleges students have much to celebrate; in addition to earning their high school diploma, students graduate with transferable college credits, or an associate’s degree and/or an industry certification. This jump on higher education allows for a faster path to a four-year degree and/or certifications needed to enter the workforce.


Imagine a high school student who graduates with transferable college credits, or a postsecondary credential such as an associate’s degree or an industry certification. That was the case for Ellie Muncy, who grew up in Happy Canyon and graduated from the Colorado Early Colleges (CEC) Parker campus a few years ago. The early college model offers high school students the opportunity to take a variety of classes and potentially save thousands of dollars on higher education.

Ellie earned an associate’s degree on top of her high school diploma, allowing her to skip many of the general education classes at the University of Colorado Boulder and get her college degree a year early.

CEC is a tuition-free, open-enrollment network of schools, in person and online, stretching from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs and authorized by the Colorado Charter School Institute. Campus locations in Douglas County include Castle Rock and Inverness, which will merge with the Parker location beginning with the 2024-2025 school year and be known as CEC Douglas County North High School.

“Being able to explore focuses for college was very helpful. I took many different types of classes like American Sign Language, World Mythology, Graphic Design, Introduction to Architecture and Film Photography and had a lot of fun learning what I liked and what I did not like,” Ellie stated. “I also got an idea of what the college workload would be like and to prepare for that.”

CEC looks at the job market and where the high-demand jobs are and provides pathways to those careers in tech, business, design or healthcare, to name a few. Maren Blind, Head of School at the CEC Castle Rock campus, commented that having the Arapahoe Community College (ACC) Sturm Collaboration Campus close by makes the CEC Castle Rock campus highly desirable because students can also attend classes on the ACC campuses. ACC instructors teach at CEC so it makes it convenient for the instructors as well.

CEC can be very challenging, and Ellie shared that a CEC student needs to be motivated. She added that there are some important differences from a regular, and typically much larger, high school. Unlike high school classes, there are new faces throughout the semester at CEC, and while there are not sports teams, there are some clubs based on student interests

CEC Castle Rock currently has 400 enrolled, up from 120 when the school opened in 2020.

For more information, visit Sign up for a campus tour or watch an overview video on the website under the “Our Schools” tab.


By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of CEC



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