Tori Ball graduated from Akron Early College High School in May of 2012. Three days later, she graduated with her associate degree in Criminal Justice Technology from the University of Akron. Because of her early college experience, Tori entered the University of Toledo with 68.5 college credit hours and was able to earn her Bachelor’s degree in only 2 years. A combination of free college credits earned while in high school and college scholarships means that when Tori graduated from college last month, she graduated debt free.
More and more frequently, people are questioning the high cost of a college education, even though studies consistently show that college graduates on average earn more over a lifetime than people who only have a high school diploma (PDF). Tori is a first-generation college-goer and the cost of college was on her mind when she made her decision to enter Akron Early College High School.
“Attending an early college high school saved me $40,000 dollars and two years of my time,” she said. “I also had the perk of having wonderful support systems in place, which may not have been there if I didn’t go to Akron Early College High School.”
KnowledgeWorks early college high schools, like Akron Early College High School, are set up to make sure that each student has an individualized learning plan as well as the supports necessary to success. For Tori, some of that support came in the form of Pat Millhoff, JD, her criminal justice professor.
“Since I was a child, I knew that I wanted to work in the Criminal Justice system,” Tori said. “In my junior year of high school, I took a class at the University of Akron from Professor Millhoff, who was a defense attorney for many years. She took me under her wing and she helped me realized that law was the path I wanted to follow.”
Next year Tori will enter law school at University of Toledo. “During my undergraduate, I minored in women’s studies and it enlightened me on all of the social issues in our society,” she said. “I hope to one day be an activist for women and minority groups using my law degree.”
Right now Tori is planning for her future, but she is grateful to the foundation Akron Early College High School gave her. In addition to the cost benefits, early college high schools help ease the transition between high school and college.
“When I first moved into the dorms at the University of Toledo, most of the new freshman were overstressed and didn’t know what to do with all of the responsibly that came along with college, but I was prepared and knew I could achieve anything I put my mind to,” Tori said. “The freedom of college life didn’t shock me as much as it did my peers, which helped me achieve more things.”
That focus on achievement on is also a result of Tori’s time at Akron Early College High School. There, being the first in her family to graduate from college became an attainable goal.
“I always knew that college was an important aspect of life to me and I wanted to do things in life that wouldn’t be possible without a college degree,” Tori said. “My grandmother and aunt always reminded me that going to college was important. Akron Early College High School reinforced these ideals and showed me that college wasn’t impossible or too hard.”