College credit program between WCPSS, St. Augustine's uncertain

Tom George Image
Thursday, February 1, 2024
Future of WCPSS college credit program at St. Aug uncertain
Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS) teams up with St Augustine's University (SAU) for the Wake Youth Women's Leadership Academy and its counterpart the Wake Youth Men's Leade

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Parents and students say they're concerned about their futures after a competitive learning program to give gifted students a leg up with college credit will remain in place through the spring.

Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS) teams up with St Augustine's University (SAU) for the Wake Youth Women's Leadership Academy and its counterpart the Wake Youth Men's Leadership Academy.

It's a highly competitive program for students starting in the 6th grade. They have a long essay process, and there's limited enrollment, but the benefit is they get two years' worth of college courses at SAU during their junior and senior years in high school.

The problem is now as we've recently been reporting, SAU is in danger of losing its accreditation. After the board of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted to remove St. Aug's membership, the university has been in a probationary period while they fight to appeal the decision and get their accreditation.

WCPSS tells ABC11 they're planning to stick with St. Aug's for at least this spring semester, despite those accreditation issues.

That is having a ripple effect at the Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy where students and parents who worked hard are now wondering if they lost out on the traditional high school experience for an opportunity that's slipping out of reach.

"I just really want my work to show for something. I've been working my whole middle school and high school career, even though that's just a year for these college credits that I was promised a long time ago. And I've given up a lot for that. I've given up sleep because I do have to travel to school early in the morning. I've given up a lot. I've given up some of my mental health," says freshman Mya Mendez.

"I hope that they can figure out a solution, but I just would like them to give some consideration to people who are having to make hard decisions on the spot. That's that's not the way that this process is supposed to work," her mom Alison says.

WCPSS sent parents this statement Wednesday: "Concerns about SAU's long-term stability, facility conditions, accreditation, and the potential impact on future students were shared by both students and families. We understand these concerns and, as we await updates on SAU's accreditation status, we are proactively considering contingency plans for the academic year 2024-25."

In the long term, Wake County Schools says they want to continue with a four-year university for this program, but whether that continues to be St Aug's will depend on what happens with the accreditation situation, the next step in their appeals process is in February.

Many of the spots at the academy are reserved for families of students who are the first in their families to go to college.

One potential option is whether the academy should partner with a different school and Wake County's superintendent is still in talks with with SAU

Wake Tech has floated as an idea. Another option was online or AP classes, but parents and students feel that would simply not be what they were promised.

Meanwhile, SAU declined to comment on the situation - High school students enrolled there now will still be credited through the appeals process for the spring semester, but obviously for high schoolers coming up through the program, it's a big question mark.

WCPSS is expected to release more information in the coming weeks after consulting with SAU.