High schools all over the state graduate students at this time of year. But this time next year, Charleston County will begin graduating some students with a high school diploma and a college associate’s degree at the same time. Following a national trend already begun in other counties, Charleston has approved an “early college” program beginning this fall. According to Charleston County School District official Kim Wilson, the program will start with a class of 100 this fall and add 100 more each fall for the next three years. It will target students in the “middle of the pack,” not the gifted and talented, said Wilson. The program’s classes will be held on the downtown campus of Trident Technical College, which will offer college-level courses alongside the high school classes. Trident Tech’s Melissa Stowasser says the program’s benefits for students include enabling them to be successful at an early age, building their self esteem and being cost-effective, as the school district absorbs the cost of the college courses, making it free to the students. We also hear from student Megan Scharett, who derived many benefits from a similar program called “middle college” in Dorchester District 2.