Imagine what it would feel like to walk across the stage at your high school graduation and leave with not one, but two diplomas. That will, soon, be the reality for dozens of students at Ottawa Hills, in Grand Rapids.
The program is called Early Middle College.
Students will attend high school through the 13th grade and get their high school diploma and their Associates Degree, for free.
"I think that is a wonderful opportunity for any kid attending Ottawa Hills to be enrolled in that program," said Chris Sain, with Grand Rapids Community College.
Sain says the program will begin in the fall of 2017, with roughly 50 high school sophomores. Throughout their high school career those students will take college courses, taught by GRCC teachers, and earn credits towards their Associates Degree.
"The extra year of high school is also a time where they get entrenched with GRCC and that is where they get access to all of our support services, all of our resources and they get the holistic college experience the entire time," said Sain.
Early Middle College is the latest partnership between Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. It will initially only be offered to students at Ottawa Hills High School. But, the hope is that it will grow over time.
"This first cohort will include 50, two cohorts of 25 students, each beginning in the fall. The goal is to open it up to everyone who wants to go through that Early Middle College Program at Ottawa Hills High School," said Sain. "Cedar Springs Schools has done it and had great success. Wyoming Public High School has done it and had great success. And, I'm a firm believer that Ottawa Hills will duplicate and replicate their success if not exceed it."
That success includes improving graduation rates as well as making college for affordable for West Michigan students.
"Right now, at GRCC, it costs around $104 to $106 dollars per credit hour. So, think about a three credit course. That is upwards of $300 that is completely wiped out and free," he said. "They [students] will have a chance to take their 63 credits earned from the community college and apply it to a four year school of their choice. So, you cant beat that opportunity."
Sain says they are urging parents to take advantage of it.
"It is important for interested parties to get their students enrolled and applications filled out by the Jan. 31 deadline," he said. "If you can have your college paid for the sky is the limit of what you can do with that credential."
To be eligible students must have at least a 2.5 grade point average and both the student, and a parent, must commit to completing the 13th grade.