Do 4-Year-Olds Belong in College?

Call it a head start, or an educational alternative to camp. Whatever you call it, summer college designed specifically for kids is popular with parents.

By Reader's Digest Editors

Call it a head start, or an educational alternative to summer camp. Whatever you call it, the idea of summer programs at college and universities designed specifically for kids is one many parents find attractive. And for years colleges have successfully lured high school students to their leafy quads for a more high-falutin version of what used to be simply called “summer school.”

But an article in SmartMoney, “The New Kids on Campus,” examines the new trend of children as young as 4 attending summer programs at institutions of higher learning around the country. Here’s a brief guide for parents who may be wondering if such a program is a good option for their child this summer.

Programs and curriculums vary from school to school.
Some programs offer the true college campus experience, including room and board (although not for 4-year-olds!). Other universities offer week-long day programs. Price also varies widely, and program choice affects this too. SmartMoney says science and engineering programs cost more than art and language programs, for example.

Education is priceless, but the programs are not.
Parents should expect to pay anywhere from $150 to over $2,000 for summer education at college campuses. As the trend grows, so do the costs. For colleges under financial strain, summer programs are cost-effective because they allow the schools to occupy empty space between traditional semesters, and classes are taught by cheaper adjunct instructors, rather than full-time faculty.

Whether or not you think summer education at a college campus is worth the expense, it’s becoming very popular, even among pre-high school students who don’t earn credit for summer coursework. SmartMoney reports that applications from elementary and middle school kids doubled for programs at North Carolina State University, while Georgia Institute of Technology received its highest number of applicants ever for its 2011 summer sessions. Meanwhile, over at the University of Virginia, some 1,200 kids, some as young as 9, are vying to attend its summer programs, which have capacity for approximately 790 students.

Read the full story at SmartMoney to learn the specific schools offering classes, and what a few parents have to say about summer academics.

Source: SmartMoney

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