Columbia Public Schools (CPS) is expanding the opportunity for students to achieve high education through a new partnership with Moberly Area Community College (MACC).
The new agreement will allow students to pursue a high school diploma and an associates degree by the time they graduate high school at no cost. The program will focus on classes known as the “Core 42,” a framework of general education that all students at public two-and four-year institutions will complete.
“There’s a tremendous amount of sayingness about those first two years, meaning that almost any kind of program of study is going to have the first two years be very common,” Jeff Lashley, president of MACC, said. “Students who finish this program can complete that coursework by the time they graduate, in which will be easily transferable if they decide to go onto a four-year instutition.”
CPS already had ways students could access college credit, including advanced placement (AP) and dual enrollment classes, according to Dru Nash, business partnership and dual credit coordinator in CPS. She added the district has partnerships with over seven secondary-education institutions, including Missouri State University, University of Missouri – Kansas City and Central Methodist University. CPS also offers a variety of AP classes.
“We were looking at all the ways students in Columbia can access programming and college credit before leaving. We have a thriving AP program and we have many dual credit opportunities, and so the district was looking at other ways we could make something more robust for our students,” Nash said. “Early college is something that is happening all around the nation.”
The district saw similar programs being implemented around Missouri, including schools in Kansas City and St. Louis; however, the early-college program is modeled after Ann Arbor in Michigan.
Students will attend college courses at MACC’s Columbia Campus for half of the day and return to their school for the other half, according to Lashley. He added that students will also access all of the resources offered at MACC because they will be recognized as a MACC student.
“A big part of our focus to make sure this is successful is to help students transition into the college environment and to become acquainted with how to be successful,” Lashley said. “We will have lots of support in place to make that happen and I think by the time someone completes an associates degree with us, they will be very prepared to transfer to a four-year institution if that’s what they want to do.”
CPS will also have an MACC advisor at every high school to help guide students throughout the process. That allows them to start planning for after high school, including what area of study they are interested in and potential schools.
One of the major benefits about the program is that it is at no cost to the student. According to the Missouri Department of Secondary Education’s (DESE) District Financial Report, the district spends about $12,000 per student. Because the college is offering the cost per credit hour at a reduced rate, the program will be accessible to all students who are interested. That’s why the district will accept any student that qualifies for the program.
“It’s really something that is going to be personally evaluated by each family based on what their students do but it really is something that all students can take advantage of,” Nash said.
To qualify for the program, students will need a grade-point average (GPA) of at least 2.75 and 90 percent cumulative attendance, Nash said. Students will also have to meet the college readiness standards which is determined by standardized tests like the American College Test (ACT). If a student has not taken the ACT, MACC will offer the ACCUPLACER test.
Nash said families and students have shown a lot of support for the program.
“We are seeing students with varying academic backgrounds and a variety of course backgrounds that are evaluating this program and how it might help them as they venture into college,” Nash said. “I also think it is attracting students who never thought college was an option for whatever reason.”
Asher Furgeson, sophomore, enrolled in the program.
“I thought that if I could earn college credit before I have to pay for it that it would be a good decision,” Furgeson said.
Lashley and Nash both emphasized that student’s in the program can also take advantage of in-school activities, allowing them to partake in high school activities while completing their associates degree.
“If they are in athletics, they can continue to play athletics. If they are in the band, the choir, the newspaper, the speech and debate team, or whatever is important to them, they can continue to participate in it,” Lashley said.
The true goal of the program, according to Nash, is to help create a bridge to the next chapter of their life.
“I hope they see a benefit and that they see that this is going to bridge them to something bigger. It will help them figure out what they like to do, what they don’t like to do, what they want to do as a major,” Nash said.
CPS expects around 50 students to enroll.