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Early College Programs

Early College Programs

HCC offers several options for academically strong high school students who want to get an early start on their college education.

What are the benefits of starting college early?

  • Enhanced learning
  • Starting and finishing college early
  • Saving money on a college degree
  • Building a college transcript while still in high school

Early College Access Program (formerly ESSENCE)

Through the Early College Access Program, students earn college credit while still at their home high school or home school, but do not attend HCC full-time. Washington County residents receive a 25 percent reduction on HCC’s regular in-county tuition rate for four classes. Out-of-county and out-of-state residents receive a 25 percent reduction on tuition rates they would be charged based on residency, for their first 12 credits.

Early College Access Program students take classes in a dual-credit class at their high school, on HCC's campus, or select off-campus locations. The dual-credit classes are those that award both high school credit and college credit. To learn more about the Early College Access Program, visit

Early College Degree Program (formerly Middle College)

The Early College Degree Program is a partnership between HCC and Washington County Public Schools to allow college-ready high school students the opportunity to complete college degrees or certificates while completing their high school diplomas. In this program, students attend HCC full-time in their junior and senior years, after doing rigorous coursework preparation at their high schools during their freshman and sophomore years.

What programs of study are offered?

Early College Degree Program students will select an educational pathway that will put them on the right course for a career, and further higher education if desired, in one of the following areas:

Note: *Selective program. Requires separate application for acceptance. Please note that you will be admitted into an AA.GST (Associate of Arts in General Studies) program until you are admitted into the clinical portion of the program you selected. Students must be 18 to participate in the clinical portion of the programs. For more information on these programs, please refer to the HCC Catalog at:

Through a combination of tuition discounts and scholarships, students and their families pay considerably less for Early College Degree Program enrollment than they would for college enrollment after high school. To learn more, visit

TRiO: Upward Bound Program

The HCC TRiO: Upward Bound Program is year-round college-preparatory program made possible through a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. HCC's Upward Bound Program is intended to assist income-eligible and/or first-generation college bound high school students in the successful completion of secondary education by preparing them academically as well as socially for enrollment and completion of higher education. This is accomplished by providing participants with rigorous and nurturing academic courses; tutoring services; college-preparatory workshops; academic, college, and financial aid advising; career exploration; leadership opportunities; and cultural enrichment field trips. HCC’s Upward Bound program will serve 70 students annually from North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Williamsport high schools, and Hancock Middle Senior High School.

Learn more at

CATE Early College Program

WCPS juniors and seniors attending Washington County Technical High School (WCTHS) will be able to participate in the Career and Technical Education (CATE) Early College Program at HCC. This provides additional pathways for high school students to earn early college credit by completing the certificated CATE Program in high school, then seamlessly transitioning to HCC for an associate degree or specialized certification in a Career and Technology Education area.

The degree programs include:

  • A.A.S. Network Administration
  • A.A.S. Cybersecurity
  • A.A.S. Advanced Manufacturing
  • A.S. Computer Science

Learn more about the program and apply.