Celebrating 40 Years of UW in the High School

UW in the High School Provides Students with a Challenge Before College While Fostering Collaboration Between College Faculty and High School Staff.

The connections this program offers are unlike any other model...college faculty and high school teachers are working together, and they have real relationships and partnerships. 

 — Tim Stetter, Director of UW in the High School

Since 1981, Continuum College’s UW in the High School (UWHS) has partnered with high schools across Washington state to offer University of Washington courses for high school and college credit. Courses are official UW courses taught by the high school’s teachers, who have been approved and trained by UW faculty. Forty years later, UWHS continues to serve as a nimble partner to more than 100 high schools in Washington and 15 UW departments who want to bring their UW courses into the high school classroom.


The program is supported by staff like Tim Stetter, the director of UW in the High School. Stetter explains UWHS has come a long way since its inception. UWHS started locally with a few high schools offering UW English courses to attract the highest achieving high school students in Washington to UW. As the program grew, more classes were added, such as world languages and science courses.

In 2007, UWHS received accreditation from the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), a professional organization for high schools and colleges that fosters and supports concurrent enrollment programs, known in Washington as “College in the High School” programs. Accreditation from this organization speaks to the quality of UWHS and that the program meets or exceeds rigorous national standards in curriculum, instructors, students, assessment and program evaluation. 

Today, “more than 4,000 high school students are successfully earning UW college credits through UWHS each year,” says Stetter. “At this point, we've got courses ranging from languages and sciences to computer science, social science and math.”

Connecting High School and College

One of the best things about UWHS is that it allows students to stay in their school and challenge themselves with a college course, since the course is coming to them. The course fits within the student’s schedule and doesn’t conflict with other required high school courses. Plus, students still get to participate in high school activities, such as sports and clubs. 

“You're taking a college course with a teacher you know, classmates you know and in a building you know. You still have your counselors, and you get the support and the structure of your high school environment,” Stetter says. “And because you're earning your UW grade over that whole course you have a much stronger chance of passing.”

Stetter adds UWHS is also an excellent way to connect the high school system and the university system:  UW faculty know better what's happening in the high schools and the high schools understand what's happening at the UW. 

High school teachers who teach UWHS courses come onto the UW campus to meet with faculty to talk about what's happening in the discipline and train with other teachers to improve their teaching of these courses in the high school and on the college campus. Likewise, faculty visit the high school classroom to observe at least one class session, allowing them to interact with students who might end up on the UW campus.

“The connections this program offers are unlike any other model,” says Stetter. “This is the only model in which college faculty and high school teachers are working together, and they have real relationships and partnerships.”

It'd be an amazing thing if UWHS could work with students who are first in their family to go to college or take a college course.

 — Tim Stetter, Director of UW in the High School 

Planning for the Future

While UWHS’s 40th anniversary is a significant milestone, Stetter remains focused on the continued growth of the program. When it comes to UWHS’s future, there are several goals Stetter is eager to accomplish. Since UWHS can’t serve every high school in the state, the first item on the list is offering an even broader array of UW courses at existing partner high schools. 

“Deepening the relationships with our high schools is an enormous growth area for us,” says Stetter. “Even with 100 partner high schools, more than 50 of them only offer one or two UW courses. We need to broaden those partnerships with those schools so that they're starting to offer four, five or six different UW courses.”

Second, Stetter wants to see comprehensive funding go through at the state level, so there’s no longer a financial barrier for students who wish to participate in programs like UWHS in Washington state. Currently, there's limited state funding to support students, so many students sitting in these UW courses don’t register for college credit because they can’t afford the fees to register.

To help advocate for state funding for these kinds of programs, Stetter serves on a task force that provides recommendations to the state legislature on improving policy. “If state funding goes through in the next couple of years, we'll be able to serve a lot more students, without adding more high schools or courses, because of the number of students who are taking these courses for high school credit only,” he says.

“It'd be an amazing thing if UWHS could work with students who are first in their family to go to college or take a college course,” Stetter says. “We’d have more students who are successfully earning college credit in high school and helping achieve the state's goal of having more adults with degrees and other postsecondary credentials.”