The University of Iowa’s president wants to create a new academy for high school students who can earn college-level credit at the university. Sally Mason is proposing a new residential program on the Iowa City campus.
“We already have a small program through the Belin-Blank Center with a small number of students who are in their last year of high school who are also co-enrolled at the University of Iowa,” Mason says. “The STEM Academy initiative would actually extend this program to ultimately include juniors in high school and change the focus most directly to STEM.”
STEM, as you may know, is a reference to science, technology, engineering and math course. The academy would be for highly motivated students, according to Mason.
“The goal is to make college more readily accessible to the truly high-ability students,” Mason says. “This would not be, again, for every student, but it would be a program for those who are high ability and highly motivated, so they would finish high school, but they’d be well on their way to a college degree by the time high school graduation rolled around.”
The university’s Belin-Blank Center already helps get talented high school seniors work in university laboratories during the summer months, so they can earn college credit. Mason’s asking the governor and state legislators to provide half a million dollars in each of the next three years to expand and refocus the center’s programming exclusively on STEM courses.
“The Belin-Blank Academy will provide academic challenges, a high-level curriculum, research experiences — those kinds of things, as well as a community of intellectual peers,” Mason says. “This is a way, we think, to keep some of the highly talented potential STEM students here in Iowa…Research shows that early college entrance programs effectively help students stay engaged in STEM majors by providing opportunities that match readiness.”
If her funding request is approved, Mason expects to start the academy in the fall of 2015. Up to 30 high school students would be enrolled and they’d live in university dormitories.
Universities in several Midwest states have similar programs, according to Mason. The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, for example, is for talented high school students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades.