Alternative Diploma Option Offers Chance for High-Achieving Texas Students to Graduate Early

Dec. 20, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — High-achieving Texas high school students will have the opportunity to graduate up to a year ahead of schedule under a first of its kind program being piloted by The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.

The Early Readiness High School Graduation Option, established by the Texas Legislature in 2009, allows participating school districts to grant diplomas to students who are certified as “college ready” by the state’s flagship research institutions, even if the students have not completed all of the credits typically required for high school graduation.

No other state has an early high school graduation option that is directly aligned with the expectations of its leading universities. Creating a pathway to college for these students will allow them to continue their academic progress and maximize knowledge retention.

“There is a small but very talented pool of high school students who have already earned a large number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credits, but still have a year to go to complete state graduation requirements,” said Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and research at The University of Texas at Austin. “Over time we think this could develop into a broader strategy for universities to provide new pathways into higher education, and for identifying and recruiting our most competitive students.”

The first diplomas using this option will be issued in spring 2013. Ten districts have been invited to participate in the initial pilot phase. Additional districts may elect to join the pilot by signing an agreement with UT Austin, which is administering the program on behalf of both universities.

Most of the approved assessments align with curricular options currently offered to advanced high school students, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations. During the pilot year of the program, students also must take ACT’s ENGAGE assessment, which measures “non-content” college readiness. The University of Texas at Austin will pay for the additional assessment.

Diplomas awarded under this option will be treated as recommended high school diplomas for other purposes, such as eligibility for enrollment in universities or for financial aid. This high school diploma option does not guarantee admission to The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, or to any other college or university or academic program, although it does signify that students have met a rigorous standard that is aligned with the placement standards of a leading flagship institution.

“We recognize that some exceptionally high-achieving ‘college ready’ students are being produced in our state. We want to work collectively to encourage them and, ideally, motivate them to continue their educational pursuits in Texas. These are some of the future leaders of our state in the coming years,” said Pamela R. Matthews, vice provost for academic affairs at Texas A&M. “We are pleased to partner with UT Austin in making possible this opportunity — and obviously hope our institutions will be attractive higher-education destinations for the students who qualify for this new program.”

For more information, visit:

For more information, contact: Tara Doolittle, 471-4550; Harrison Keller, Vice Provost of Higher Education Policy and Research, 512-232-8277; Lane Stephenson, Texas A&M University, Director of Marketing & Communications, 979-845-4662

7 Comments to "Alternative Diploma Option Offers Chance for High-Achieving Texas Students to Graduate Early"

1.  sandra said on Dec. 29, 2012

I like the idea, and it definitely creates a pipeline for recruiting top students to great universities. There is an obvious benefit for the universities. My concern is the social readiness of these academically talented teens. What effort does this program place on their social development so they are guided in a way that is age/maturity appropriate and benefits the "whole" person, not just their academic motivations?
Sandra, UT BS'93

2.  Shaniqua said on Jan. 13, 2013

I think this is a wonderful idea. I graduated early from high school in 1994 (I took a night class to get my missing credit hours) because I felt high school had nothing else to offer me - I was right. I entered UT in what would have been my senior year of high school. It was one of the best decisions I made.

3.  Joe D. Gilliland said on Jan. 17, 2013

My graduation from high school at age 16 and my enrollment at UT at age 17 was not the result of my academic prowess, but because of an 11 year school system. The early start, however, was a boon, made my life, so to speak; therefore, an early start for the academically ready I believe achieves much for students and for society. My year of graduation was 1943. When I finished my BA at UT (1949) I was 21 and had also served two years in the Army (1944-46). Early graduation was a boon!

4.  Bruce said on Jan. 17, 2013

Some things to consider are that sometimes there are problems getting the IB courses taken to match up with the courses required by the university. The other issue is that many of those classes for which one would receive credit are less difficult classes in college that would normally help bolster one's GPA. One may need that is they get a C in calculus or chemistry. Finally, what's the hurry? These 4 years will be some of the best in your have your whole life to work, so enjoy the experience.

5.  Robert Baker said on Jan. 17, 2013

Great for students that want to leave high school early but why miss your senior year in High School unless you are unhappy with your situation---Robert H. "Rennie" Baker BBA 1970

6.  Michael Pelfrey said on Jan. 17, 2013

I also think the idea of early graduation from high school can be good for some students. I share the concerns for social development expressed by Sandra, UT BS'93. Of course, maturation rates vary. A year spent in travel/work in other countries can help both maturation and academic readiness, so I hope that students finishing high school early consider all options.

7.  Jeff Phillips said on Jan. 17, 2013

Excellent and important question, Sandra!

Shaniqua, do you think you were simply mature for your age or were you intellectually ready to move ahead and forced to mature quickly? Personally, I was not ready for U.T. when I started at 17 years old. I graduated near the top of my High School class of 244 students, scored in the top 1% on the ACT, and had a hard time adjusting to the fact that the majority of my fellow students at U.T. actually studied harder, more effectively, and were much better prepared to succeed while I spent most of my first 2 years drinking on 6th Street! I finally matured and spent my last 2 years in a library cubicle. :) .

Jeff Phillips
UT. BA'94