It is a truth of our society that a college education counts among the most important factors in helping individuals to avoid poverty and achieve a life which holds both financial and non-monetary rewards. Unfortunately, it is also a truth that many high school age young adults from historically underserved communities either do not go on to college at all, or do not have successful college careers that result in baccalaureate degrees. The negative economic consequences of this situation for these young adults can be seen in recent statistics such as these: in just 10 years 60% of new jobs will require a college education; college graduates earn over $500,000 more during their lifetime than high school graduates; and, the unemployment rate is higher for those who have only a high school degree.
To address the increasingly urgent issue of access to successful college careers, the School of Arts and Sciences of Rutgers University created the Rutgers Early College Humanities Program (REaCH) in September 2008. REaCH is a highly innovative early college program whose participants take a challenging college-level course and earn college credit from Rutgers University while they are still in high school. Every REaCH Course consists of a sequence of humanities units exploring selected topics and masterpieces of world culture in such areas as fiction, drama, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, history and philosophy. REaCH courses are taught on-site at a high school or after-school center by experienced college professors who are experts in their respective disciplines. Students experience firsthand what college is like: they read college texts, complete college assignments and participate in thought-provoking discussions, gaining important feedback in these endeavors from their professors and classmates. Each REaCH course creates a network of peers involved in the same learning experience who support, encourage and motivate each other.
The early college experience that REaCH provides holds many benefits for its participants. By giving students the opportunity to directly experience what college is like, REaCH helps them gain a realistic understanding of what will be expected of them in college. It strengthens their reading, writing and critical thinking skills, and provides them with cultural knowledge and background that will be important for their success in college. Students achieve a degree of college readiness they cannot gain through their regular high school studies, with the entire REaCH experience helping them to gain confidence in themselves, seeing themselves as learners who can handle college material and succeed in a college environment. Every student who completes a REaCH course receives a Certificate of Achievement, and those who complete it at a high level of performance earn college credit from Rutgers, which is typically transferable to any college they may subsequently attend. Students can be ‘dual enrolled’ and earn high school credit as well.