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Administrators from the East Greenbush Central School District shared important academic data at two public Board of Education meetings in January regarding college credit courses, advanced placement courses and college outcomes.

The purpose of sharing this data is so that students and families can make informed decisions about post-graduate opportunities, whether that is attending a 2- or 4-year college, entering a certificate program or joining the workforce.

Courses with College Credits

Columbia High School offers 27 courses with college credit attached to them in subjects including business, English, foreign language, mathematics, music, science, social studies and art. 

Taking high school classes for college credit can boost college admission chances, give families good value (because it is much less expensive to register for these courses at Columbia than taking them at college) and it is a significant indicator of college and career readiness.

During the January 26 board meeting, Assistant Superintendent James McHugh shared that 59% of Columbia graduates over the past four years have earned at least 3 college credits while in high school. A total of 4,497 credits have been earned during that time, which is an average of 5.9 credits per student.

“We want our students to have opportunities to challenge themselves academically,” said Mr. McHugh. “Taking college credit classes can help develop students’ time management skills and possibly allow students an opportunity to deeper explore a particular field of study.”

It can depend on the college, the student’s major and what grade they earned in the high school class whether credits will transfer. For example, a student majoring in a business degree is more likely to have their business class credits transferred than if they have a non-business major. Additionally, certain courses such as Intro to Psychology and Introduction to Literature are highly transferable because they are foundational courses that most colleges require.

Mr. McHugh emphasized that students and their parents should research colleges to which they may apply so they can learn if the college credits will be accepted. However, even if a college does not accept the credits, students will be better prepared for college having completed these more rigorous classes in high school.

Advanced Placement Courses

Columbia offers 14 advanced placement courses (New York State average is 10.6) in subjects such as English, World History, U.S. History, Microeconomics, Intro to Calculus, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. These courses, much like college credit courses, are challenging and can help contribute to future success in college.

According to the College Board, “students who completed one AP course and the accompanying exam were three percentage points more likely to graduate from college within four years, while students who took an AP Exam and scored 3 or higher were six percentage points more likely to graduate from college within four years than similar students who took no AP Exams at all.”

Over the past five years, 40% of Columbia students have taken at least one AP course. During that time, 85% of students passed their AP exam with a score of 3 or higher.

College Data

The district utilizes the National Student Clearinghouse Data Student Tracker Report and Columbia’s Life Track Survey Data to learn more about Columbia students and their post-graduate success.

According to a report presented at the January 12 board meeting, the pandemic has likely contributed to a decline in freshman to sophomore persistence rates across the country, including for Columbia graduates. The percentage of Columbia students who enrolled in college in the first year after graduating high school who returned for a second year decreased 7% from Fall 2019 to Fall 2020. However, the persistence rate for Columbia graduates still remains significantly higher than the national average.

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Columbia Rate 88 88 89 89 82
National Rate 75.6 75.8 75.6 75.9 73.9

There could be a variety of factors for this decline, such as an atypical college experience, changing learning models at colleges and universities or students dropping out to enter the workforce.

Another important finding, which has been reported by the district in the past, is that certain segments of students are less likely to attend college than others. For example, Economically Disadvantaged Students attend college at a lower rate than Not Economically Disadvantaged Students (52% compared to 81%).

The district has made efforts to increase post-graduate options for all students by implementing a Career Readiness Night, creating a Business Advisory Council that works with trade unions, exposing students to more certificate programs that focus on skills rather than diplomas and degrees, and offering Career and Technical Education programs through Questar III BOCES.

“Our board’s vision includes ensuring that all students graduate with the preparation needed to pursue a range of post-commencement options, whether students choose to pursue a career in the trades, decide to enter the workforce immediately, serve in our military or attend a 2 year or 4 year college,” said Superintendent Jeff Simons. “All students, regardless of the path they follow, deserve rigorous and engaging instruction.It is our responsibility to ensure we prepare our graduates to be productive citizens.”

Recommendations for Post-Graduate Success

Utilize Naviance for College and Career Prep

Naviance is a web-based college and career tool offered to all Columbia students through the Guidance Department. Students complete a Career Interest Profiler and Personality Type Test in school during their freshman and sophomore years.

Students can also search colleges and request transcripts and letters of recommendation.

“Naviance is a one stop shop for careers and college,” said Columbia High School Counselor Allison Milazzo. “One unique aspect of Naviance is their Scattergrams feature which plots students from Columbia who have applied to each college based on GPA and college entrance exam score. So, students can really see if a particular college is a reach, safety, or likely school. They can also request information from colleges right there, too!”


Explore High School Courses with College Credits

Columbia offers more than two dozen classes with college credit attached to them in a variety of subjects. Taking these courses are a good way for students to stand out on their college applications as less emphasis is being put on standardized tests such as the SAT and more emphasis is being put on rigorous high school coursework.

Additionally, the value of earning college credits while at Columbia (most are $55 per credit hour) versus at college ($200 per credit hour at HVCC and considerably more at four-year public and private colleges) is significant. Students can decrease their overall cost of college, and the debt they may incur, by earning credits before arriving on their college campus.

Students and parents who are interested in college credit courses at Columbia should speak with a school counselor about registration, cost and how college credits transfer.

Take a 4th Year of Math

One of the biggest academic obstacles for students once they arrive at college is fulfilling their math requirement. This can happen when students opt not to take a fourth year of math in high school so they go more than a year without math. Adjusting to a college-level statistics course can be difficult for some students.

“There is clear research that supports taking additional math while in high school as it is certainly correlated with college success,” said Mr. McHugh. “Students who decide not to take a 4th year of mathematics during their senior year could go 12 months or more without any formal instruction in mathematics before being required to take math at the college level. The study of mathematics builds problem-solving skills and all citizens need to know how to reason and analytically think through problems.”

Review Career and Technical Education Opportunities

Columbia juniors and seniors have access to hands-on training in a variety of fields through Questar’s Career and Technical Education program including Criminal Justice, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Heavy Equipment Operation & Maintenance, and HVAC & Renewable Energies.

Questar’s New Visions program allows students to learn and explore career fields at specific institutions through mentoring, internships and interactions with professionals, all while earning academic credit. These programs include:

  • STEM at RPI
  • Scientific Research & World Health at UAlbany
  • Medical at Samaritan Hospital
  • Visual & Performing Arts at The Arts Center of the Capital Region
  • Pathways in Education at UAlbany
  • Emergency Preparedness, Informatics, Cyber and Homeland Security at UAlbany

Browse Available Scholarships

There are dozens of scholarships available to Columbia High School students each year which can help defer the cost of attending college.

“Scholarships can help make the college experience more affordable,” said Mrs. Milazzo. “Whether it is $100 that can help pay for books or thousands of dollars that helps cover tuition, take advantage of them all – there is no limit to how many you can apply for.”

Scholarship Opportunities