Image Alt
  /  Information   /  Why the Vail Early College?

Why the Vail Early College?


What is the Vail Early College? 

  • A program run by the Vail School District in partnership with Pima Community College.
  • An opportunity for students reach higher during their senior year and arrive sooner to their post-high school goals.
  • An experience in which students spend their senior year taking 3-4 college courses per semester on Pima Community College East Campus.
  • Focused on being the right program for the right students.

What are we here to do?

  • Help students to succeed in the transition from high school to college.
  • Help students learn what college is really like with daily supports from the dedicated VEC staff! 
  • Help students go on to complete their college degrees, sometimes a year sooner than their high school peers. 
  • Help students earn 26 (on average) transferable college credits prior to graduating from high school. 
  • Provide students with the supports and skills necessary to successfully meet their academic goals.

What are we NOT?

  • Run by Pima Community College. We are a Vail program!
  • A program that can meet the needs of every senior in the district. 
  • A credit recovery program.
  • An online college program. (Current COVID modality is an exception. Students who apply should be prepared for an in person and some virtual learning modality, depending on Pima Community College’s decisions surrounding COVID-19 concerns.) 
  • A place for students who are unmotivated. 

What does the Vail Early College look like?

  • Senior year of high school will be spent full time at Pima East Campus and not at their high school of graduation.
  • School day is Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.   
  • Students follow Pima’s academic calendar, not Vail’s. This means school starts in August. Yes, that means we don’t have a fall break and only a one week spring break, but we do have a month long winter break and longer summer! 
  • Full time Vail School District staff focused on supporting VEC students and parents.
  • Students can still participate in their Vail high school’s sports, clubs, activities, dances, etc. but also have full access to Pima resources, activities and events.
  • Students will receive a diploma from their current Vail high school and walk with their class at graduation.
  • Pima courses taken will be specifically chosen to meet each student’s individual educational goal.
  • Students will take Government for high school credit on the Pima campus but taught by VEC staff.
  • Students will be provided with specific college success supports throughout the school year through our VEC College Success course.
  • Students will complete their Senior Exit Project through the Vail Early College. The major difference is the SEP paper, which is not a separate paper but a paper within the WRT 101 class and may have no relation to your SEP career choice. 

What is in it for students and their families?

  • Free Pima tuition and student fees, including most textbooks (a value of nearly $4,000). Note: There is a $50 VEC College Success Course Fee per VEC student to cover costs outside of what we are provided for our tuition, fees and textbooks budget. 
  • Full time Vail School District staff to help with each personalized academic journey.
  • Specific training and activities to ensure that students benefit from the student support services offered by Pima.
  • Students can earn up to 30 transferrable college credits prior to graduating high school.
  • After graduation from high school, colleges/universities will view students as first year college students. This means that students will be eligible for Freshman/first year scholarships and financial aid packages.

How do students get to participate in the Vail Early College?

  • Complete the application found on the VEC website – here
  • A selection committee will score each candidate to determine if the student is ready to tackle college a year early. 

How will students be selected?

  • Selection will focus on:
    • Completed Application
    • Progress Towards Graduation
    • Cumulative High School Grade Point Average 
    • Essay in Application
    • Ability to take College Level courses
    • Teacher Recommendations
    • Interview
    • Student Motivation

Why VEC…a perspective from a current VEC student – by Taylor Montgomery

Ready to apply to the Vail Early College?

Go to the Apply Now page to begin your application.

Not yet ready to apply but have questions??

Contact the Vail Early College Coordinator, Raylee May, at or 520-879-3831