AIKEN - Aiken High School is seeking to start a rigorous study program designed to make students more attractive to colleges.
The International Baccalaureate program consists of intense studies in six areas and is recognized by colleges and universities such as Harvard, Yale and Stanford.
"It's an intensive program of study for very serious-minded students," Aiken High Principal David Caver said. "We feel like it will kind of tie in nicely with the advanced placement (course) offering we already have."
But the program doesn't come cheaply.
Hilton Head High School completed the application process for the program this year and plans to admit its first set of 39 sophomores to the program this fall.
In addition to the $2,000 application fee for the program, Hilton Head High Principal Bill Evans estimates the school will have spent about $30,000 just in teacher training by the end of summer.
Currently there are about eight high schools in the state with the program.
The International Baccalaureate is based in Geneva and has been in existence for about 25 years. The curriculum includes studies in world literature, sciences, languages and mathematics. There is also a community service component.
Students are graded from 1 to 7 in each course based on their performance and comprehension of the subject matter. A cumulative score of 24 is required for a diploma, but a student scoring 5 or better in a certain subject can get a certificate for that subject. There are eight classes in the program per semester.
A diploma holder can gain entrance to a college as a second-semester freshman or a sophomore, based on the student's performance and admission policies of the institution, said Paul Campbell, associate director for the program's U.S. offices in New York.
There are 500 member schools in 73 countries throughout the nation.
Suzanne Greene, spokeswoman for Harvard University, said a diploma from the program is recognized by the college, but doesn't guarantee a student admission.
"It is an excellent preparatory program, but it doesn't necessarily give students an edge with regard to the admissions process here," Ms. Greene said. "Harvard looks at what a student does with regard to the resources available to him or her."
Frank Roberson, assistant superintendent for Aiken County Schools, said the cost of the program is on the minds of some administrators, which is why a feasibility study has been requested. It could be another year or two before the program starts, he said.
"We wanted to do a feasibility study to see exactly what it would involve in terms of training and cost to implement the program," Dr. Roberson said. "It's a rather comprehensive, rigorous program and we didn't want to overwhelm ourselves by taking on too much at any given time."