The Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, embraced a first-of-its-kind partnership with the University of Utah that will give flight to the higher-education aspirations of stellar students attending Alta High School.
A Memo of Understanding between the first new school district to be created in Utah in a century and Utah’s flagship institution of the state System of Higher Education was approved during the Board of Education’s business meeting at the Canyons Administration Building-East, 9361 S. 300 East.
The alliance is the U.’s second academic, early-college partnership with a secondary school. However, it is the tier-one, PAC 12 research institution’s first official collaboration with a traditional, comprehensive public high school.
The Canyons program — called Step2theU — will grant a select cohort of Alta-enrolled students the opportunity to study with University of Utah professors and instructors at the U.’s Sandy Campus. Alta’s administration aims to open the first competitive application process in the coming months. Those selected would need to be prepared to start in summer 2017.
“The Canyons Board of Education is pleased to provide this innovative program to the students of Alta High,” said Board President Sherril H. Taylor. “We’re honored to forge an early-college partnership with such a prestigious university, and we’re thrilled that our students will be given a chance to get a jump-start on their pursuit of post-secondary education. It also serves as just one more reason that we will continue to focus, even with our youngest students, on the importance of being college- and career-ready.”
Hawks seeking to become Utes through the program will submit applications during the fall of their junior years. If accepted, the students will be introduced to Step2theU during a summer-block program. Coursework would begin between the students’ junior and senior years, and provide an opportunity for students to finish one semester of college. Then, in the summer months after high school graduation and before the start of their freshman years, the students would take enough general-education coursework to complete another semester.
In essence, by the time the Alta students reach their first day of school at the U, they would have two complete semesters under their belts.
“This new partnership with Alta High will allow us to put everything we know about student success into a state-of-the-art, early-college experience,” said Ann Darling, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Studies at the U. “We are excited to work with the great administration and staff at Alta High and Canyons School District and to serve their terrific students in their pathway to college.”
By participating, Principal Brian McGill says, Alta students could possibly save up to $10,000 in tuition, fees and other associated college costs.
The first-ever cohort would be made up of 30-35 students. The target audience of students would include current Alta students who have solid grade-point averages, as well as involvement in Advanced Placement and concurrent enrollment classes. However, the students who submit applications will be asked to detail their engagement in school extracurriculars, demonstrate leadership and personal engagement with the community, and declare a preference in continuing their studies at the U.
In addition, McGill said the program would be heavily marketed to first-generation, minority and low-income students.
“Canyons District’s mission is to help foster a culture of college- and career-readiness, and this innovative partnership is a way to further fulfill our commitment to our students and the families that are able to participate in this unique academic venture,” said McGill. “We have a vision at Alta High School to be the first comprehensive high school in Utah to create a new hybrid high school framework that embodies the traditional offerings in academics, arts, athletics and extracurricular activities, combined with a this newly established early college pathway, in partnership with the University of Utah.”