BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) — Just a little over a quarter of adults in Louisiana have a college degree.

Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) is taking steps to increase that number by focusing on the educational needs of the next generation.

BRCC and Geo Next Generation High School have partnered to create a program that will allow students to earn an associate degree while they’re still in high school.

The program is called The Early College Academy, and it’s designed to help students earn associate degrees in any field of their choosing. One of the most outstanding aspects of The Academy is that it’s completely free of charge.

Students at Geo Next Generation High are eager to make use of the opportunities The Academy extends to participants.

Sierra Ravish, a senior at Geo Next Generation High, is once such student.

She told BRProud, “I’m thankful for this program, because it allowed me to become a role model to my younger siblings. Coming from a family where neither one of my parents was able to finish high school.”

Another high school senior, Quintasia McCray, credited the program with giving her a head start to a better future.

McCray said, “It helped me to discover myself and what I wanted for myself. I have 63 credits. And that will lead me to getting my degree in biology to be an orthopedic surgeon.”

BRCC officials says The Academy was created with students like Ravish and McCray in mind.

Dr. Willie Smith, BRCC’s Chancellor, described the ways in which he anticipates the program will help local high school students, saying, “They can be productive in society, hopefully, transferred to the university. But if they want to go to work, they will have those skills to go to work.”

Kevin Teasley, the CEO of GEO Next Generation High echoed these sentiments by explaining what he hears students saying about The Academy.

Teasley said, “‘I can complete college,’ ‘I believe I’m a college student now.’ That’s what we hear from our students, which is fantastic.”

Considering how many advantages The Academy extends to high school students, Dr. Willie Smith says he expects more participation in the future.

“I cannot stress this enough,” Smith said. “To leave school with a college with a high school diploma and a college degree speaks volumes.”

BRCC firmly believes this is only the beginning, the institution expects the program to eventually become available in ten other school districts.