For some students, starting college classes while in high school can enrich the high school experience. High school students may be able to take classes at the local college or university, either on campus or through online education classes. This article provides an overview.

In addition to summer program of non-credit courses to initiate high school students into college life and accredited high school programs, some institutions of higher education (IHE's) offer college-level courses that are open to qualified high school students.

College classes available to high school students include, on-line, on-site, and correspondence courses, and this may be particularly helpful for a student who is ready for advance courses earlier than he or she is ready to attend college. But having a prepared student is only part of the picture. The other part is to make sure there's a good match, and that means ensuring that the institution is legitimate and accredited.


The accreditation system provides for accountability for institutions that offer educational coursework. The accreditation process reviews not only the course content, but also the faculty, and admissions and recruiting. And you need to know this for more than receiving quality instruction: institutions providing financial aid, employers, and institutions to which you may wish to transfer credit will all be concerned with the accreditation of the institution you choose, so research carefully.

There are several institutions that provide accreditation, and you may wish to focus on the regional commissions noted below, each of which has a directory of institutions that they have accredited. They in turn are reviewed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE) showing that it's not only important to check for accreditation, but also to check the accrediting institution. In addition, you should seek out reviews by former and current students to find out what others have experienced as part of your selection process.

The six regional accreditation associations for colleges and universities are:

  • Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education 
    • Commission on Technical and Career Institutions 
  • North Central Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education 
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges 
    • Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities 
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Types of College Programs Available for High School Students 

Information below will give you an idea of what's available nationwide. In searching for local options, besides calling your state department of education and local IHE's another idea is to do a Google search on the keywords: university high school program - and then add your state in, too.

Summer College Programs

Besides the many college programs for high school students that are offered as “bridges” to the college experience, there are colleges that offer college-level summer courses for high school students. Columbia University, among others, offers qualified high school students an opportunity to apply for admission to their regular summer session. Stanford offers a special High School Summer College program in which high school students may take 8-week undergraduate courses for college credit.

Year-Round College Programs

Here are two examples of college programs for high school students. Both of these institutions say that credits earned are transferable to other IHE's.

Designed as both a bridge to the college experience and an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school, the University in the High School Program of the State University of New York Albany Campus, serves 41 New York state counties and offers classes in 23 academic areas to students in their own high school with oversight by the university. In this program, students are issued University IDs, which give them certain campus privileges, including use of the library and recreation facilities as well as admission to University--sponsored events.

University of Pittsburgh offers the College in High School program (CHS) to earn University of Pittsburgh college credit. These courses are offered in the students' own high school, and note that courses are taught by a high school teachers certified by University of Pittsburgh.

Distance Learning College Programs 

Some accredited colleges with campuses also offer distance learning options. Oregon State, for example, is a college that offers high school students the opportunity to earn college credit through a distance learning program that includes over 30 course choices. The program is delivered over the web and through videotapes.

There are also institutions that only have an on-line presence (no physical campus) that offer courses. Particular care in choosing one of these institutions is recommended. You may wish to do a Google search on the name of the school and the word lawsuit to find out if the school has had any major issues. Also, besides verifying that the school is accredited, do some research on the accrediting institution.




The Regional Accrediting Commissions


Summer College Opportunities


Year-round college programs


Distance learning college programs


Written by Mary Elizabeth