Socorro High School (SHS) applied to the New Mexico Public Education Department to be designated as an Early College High School (ECHS). What does this mean for Socorro High students?

This means that students can use dual credit opportunities to earn certificates, associate degrees, or two-year progress toward four-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees from New Mexico Tech (NMT). Even better, they will be able to do this by the time they graduate from Socorro High School.

The complete application for ECHS designation was the culmination of two years of planning and discussions between members of the Socorro High administration, New Mexico Tech (NMT), and community members.

This process included a significant expansion of dual credit opportunities at NMT, and careful mapping of coursework that would satisfy both high graduation requirements and program requirements at NMT.

Local business partners (including the City of Socorro, EMRTC and other local businesses) were also engaged in the process both because of a strong interest in building opportunities for students, and as job training partners in their role as potential employers for student interns.

What does an Early College High School pathway look like? 

Suppose a Socorro High student is interested in earning certification in Small Business Management (this is one of the identified pathways). The student applies to the ECHS program which includes working with their parents and the high school dean to construct their next step plan. Once the student is admitted into the ECHS program, the student will be assigned an NMT faculty advisor, and will enroll in a college prep-style course their freshman year to help ensure success from the very beginning.

With assistance from the Dean of Students at New Mexico Tech and Dean of Instruction at Socorro High School, the student may enroll in NMT courses which will count as high school and college credit (dual credit courses from UNM-VC, WNMU, and ENMU could all be transferred and applied toward the certificate or degree). The specific courses will be selected to meet the Small Business Certification requirements which can be completed in less than two years, and the student will receive the certificate upon graduation from Socorro High School. Students who earn this certificate will be well prepared to enter the workforce directly, continue coursework toward a two-year or four-year Business degree at NMT or other institutions.

The general process described above also applies to earning an Associate degree or completion of two years toward a four-year degree (BA or BS).

Building a STEM workforce

The benefit of the partnership with NMT is that Socorro High students would be advised by NMT faculty who could guide them early-on to prepare for degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

New Mexico currently has a significant demand in the STEM workforce, and these are some of the highest-paying jobs. According to Newsweek, NMT is ranked 59th nationally for graduates’ earnings with an average of $65,800 early career and $124,500 mid-career salaries. Students who participate in the ECHS program could start earning these salaries in as little as two years after they graduate from Socorro High School.

While there are still quite a few program details and procedures that need to be worked out—including the results of the NMPED approval—it is an incredible opportunity for our youth that highlights the results of the growing collaborations between the Socorro Consolidated School District, New Mexico Tech, and community businesses and partners.

Sharon Sessions, Guest Columnist