Earning Your Colorado High School Diploma!

Colorado residents who wish to earn a high school diploma have several options available to them. Local school districts may offer adult high schools, alternative high schools or competency-based education programs. Adult learners can also earn their high school diploma by attending a private career school.

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How to Earn a Colorado High School Diploma Through Your Local School District

Depending on where you live in Colorado, you may enroll at an adult high school, an alternative high school or a competency-based education program if you're seeking to earn a high school diploma. Contact your local school district to find out if these options are available in your area. For general information about adult education in Colorado, visit the Colorado Department of Education's website (www.cde.state.co.us).

Earning a Diploma from an Adult High School

In an adult high school, students who are 17 years and older attend traditional classes and also study independently in lab settings to earn their high school diploma. Adult high schools offer open enrollment throughout the school year. Prospective students usually must first attend an orientation and also provide official transcripts to document course credits already earned at other schools. Students may also earn a limited number of credits toward their diploma from additional verifiable sources such as:

  • Transcripts of community college credits
  • Full-time work experience
  • Military experience
  • Stay-at-home parenting experience
  • Community volunteer experience

Adult high school students typically attend classes for 8-16 hours per week and work at their own pace. School instructors check assignments, give course exams and provide tutoring as needed. Coursework includes subjects in:

  • English
  • Math
  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Technology

Students graduate upon completing the required credits to earn a diploma. The diploma earned at an adult high school is the equivalent of a traditional high school diploma. However, credits earned at an adult high school may not be transferable to other area high schools.

Tuition varies for adult high school programs, but those who are under 21 might only need to pay registration dues. In addition to registration fees, students who are over 21 years old may pay per credit. Contact your local school district to learn more about adult high schools in your community.

Earning a Diploma from an Alternative High School

To earn your diploma at an alternative high school, you must first register, attend an orientation and pass an entrance exam. Adult learners attending an alternative high school study alongside students who may range in age from 14-21. They can take advantage of flexible school schedules and work at a self-directed pace. Within the school day, students take a minimum number of consecutive classes. Some alternative high schools also offer evening classes. Students may take career or vocational courses, in addition to a traditional curriculum of reading, math and writing courses.

Some alternative high schools afford students the opportunity to earn dual high school and college credits while working toward their high school diploma. College and career placement may also be available. For students under the age of 21, tuition is generally free at alternative high schools.

Alternative high schools host one or more graduation ceremonies during the course of the year. These graduates earn the same state-accredited diploma as they would from a traditional high school. The school-year calendar for some alternative high schools is the same as traditional school-year calendars, but may be broken into independent sessions. Other alternative high schools operate year round.

Earning a Diploma from a Competency-Based Education Program

Competency-based education (CBE) is an instructional approach centered around a student's ability to apply basic skills to everyday life situations. Students earn a diploma by demonstrating mastery of specific life skills or competencies. This approach to learning can be tailored to an adult student's specific needs. A diploma earned through a CBE program is considered the equivalent to a diploma earned at other high schools in the district.

CBE programs allow adults who are 18 and older to earn their diplomas at select high schools designated by the state department of education. Reading, writing and math assessments are given to students after orientation and before entering a CBE diploma program. Students must also provide copies of their transcripts from any traditional high schools they previously attended.

During a CBE program, students take regular classes or independent study sessions in a lab setting, as needed, to meet the local school district's graduation requirements. Classes may be offered during the day or in the evening. For adult students who are also employed, CBE programs offer a limited number of credits each semester for working. Tuition varies for CBE programs, and need-based financial aid may be available.

Earning a Diploma from a Private Career School

Private career schools offer you the convenience of earning your Colorado high school diploma onsite or at home online, learning at your own pace. Because you work at your own speed, enrollment is ongoing. Books and other resources may be included in the tuition cost, which varies from school to school. Coursework may include:

  • Reading and English
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Physical science
  • Earth science
  • American history
  • World history

When pursuing your diploma at a career school online, instructional support may be available via e-mail or phone. Some career schools have minimum credit enrollment requirements, as well as a maximum number of years that you can take to earn your diploma. Also, be sure to confirm that the diploma awarded is from an accredited institution and accepted at the postsecondary institution you may wish to attend.

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