Brenau's Early College program continues to move forward, furthered by its recent recognition by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The SACS recognition, different from an accreditation, will give Early College students opportunities for some financial aid for higher education they otherwise might not be eligible for, according to a news release from Brenau.
"We're much more fully integrated into the Women's College structure, is the bottom line," said Lenna Applebee, assistant dean for the program. "What it means long term for the students is when they come to the Early College program, what they're going to be experiencing is a more fully developed experience in the Women's College than if we were sort of an outlying satellite program."
With the SACS recognition, students are able to participate in more student organizations and their residence life staff will be fully trained by the university, she said.
There are two parts to the Early College program: first is the university's SACS accreditation, including the approval of the change in programming, and second is the high school accreditation portion by the Southern Association of Independent Schools, Applebee said.
"The SACS thing from the college side was necessary for us to move forward with the Early College format," Applebee said. "I also have to pursue this other side because I have to have an accredited diploma. We could, in theory, exist without accreditation from the high school side, but if students graduate from a high school that's not accredited, it makes it more difficult to get HOPE."
Nancy Krippell, Brenau provost, said the university sent in a substantive change report to SACS and waited for several months before officials heard back on whether the program would be recognized.
Had SACS not acknowledged Early College, university and Brenau Academy officials would have had to go back to the drawing board.
"We might not have done the Early College program. We can't do it without SACS approval," Krippell said.
Early College is the second generation of Brenau Academy, a residential women's preparatory school, Krippell said.
When it became no longer viable for the university to provide college and high-school courses, Early College came about.
It allows students to get both high school credit and college credit for classes, while being fully immersed in the Brenau campus: living in the dorms and participating in campus activities, for example, Applebee said.
"We think that we can really fill a niche in the market with the program now that these bits and pieces are falling into place," Applebee said.
While there are other dual-credit programs around, Brenau is unique in that it's all girls and it's a private school affiliated with a private college partnership, she said.
And things seem to be going well thus far with the first round of students in Early College.
"They've blown me out of the water with what they've done," Applebee said. "We call them pioneer women. They truly have set the bar for whoever else comes into this program. It's been amazing to see what they are capable of doing. It just reinforces for me that this is the right path for us."