New Hampshire Students Could Start College at 16

The state considers a plan that would allow students get a head start on college.

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Starting college as early as age 16 could soon be an option for students in New Hampshire. According to several recent news reports, the state is moving forward with a plan that would let students skip their junior and senior years of high school if they pass a test in the 10th grade. Afterward, they could sign up for rigorous courses at a community college.

Supporters of the plan think students who graduate with a high school diploma and an associate's degree will be more attractive to selective four-year universities. But critics, including parents, are worried that cutting two years from high school will harm the social development of students.

State education officials say they won't force teens to graduate early and will consider other measures besides test scores to determine which students are ready for college. They say the option could motivate students, including those who don't feel challenged enough at their school. One question still unanswered is who will pay for the community college classes.

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce is behind the push to let students start college at a younger age. In 2006, the group issued a report outlining several reforms to strengthen the nation's public education system. Since then, three states have stepped forward to test some of those reforms, including New Hampshire, which would be the first state to let students finish high school early if the pilot program is successful. Many European countries employ a similar education system.

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