118 CMSD students take free college courses

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Maya Rush, a high school student from Columbus, will be considered for transfer to junior college when she begins classes at the University of Mississippi next fall.

Although she’s only 17, Rush spent her junior and senior years taking college classes and is well on her way to earning her associate’s degree in liberal arts, which she’ll have before leaving. receive his high school diploma. By completing her first two years of college in high school for free, Rush said she not only saved money, but also opened herself up to more scholarship opportunities.

“As a transfer student, it gives me a lot of transfer scholarships,” Rush said. “I don’t need to stay on campus because I’m not a freshman, so it’s going to save me a lot of money there. It just gives me more money as a junior than if I was going to be a freshman.

The Columbus Municipal School District offers its high school students dozens of college courses, with all fees and tuition paid by the district at no cost to the student, through partnerships with East Mississippi Community College and Mississippi University for Women.

For the fall semester, CMSD has 118 juniors and seniors enrolled in 31 college courses ranging from college algebra, oral communication and philosophy to sociology.

Career and Technical Center Director Christopher Bray said that without the district absorbing these costs, many high school students would not take these college courses and may not even consider college as an option for them after graduation. graduation.

“They don’t have to worry about money; they only have to worry about course completion,” Bray said. “They don’t have to worry about the debt. So we encourage them to take as many courses as possible, while we pay for it. Tuition fees are one thing, but now textbooks for college courses are getting much more expensive. The books cost over $100 each.

Although Rush said she’s always been on a college track and ahead of the game, she said she’s seen classmates taking college courses who otherwise might not.

“It not only helps me, but kids who wouldn’t go to college because they couldn’t afford it, now they can,” Rush said. “Columbus High gives us an opportunity through EMCC and MUW. They give this chance to people who wouldn’t normally be able to go to college.

CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat said dual enrollment is common in many high schools, but a district relieving students of those costs is rare. Last year’s dual enrollment program cost CMSD approximately $100,000.

Labat said the district shouldering those costs is worth it to push students into higher education, technical manpower or military enlistment.

“If you’re able to get an associate’s degree before you turn 18, we’re really doing a great service to the community, to our parents, and to our students by reducing that student debt,” Labat said. “It’s costing us on the budget side, but we think our students and our community are well worth that kind of money from our budget.”

Even if they don’t graduate with an associate’s degree in high school, Bray said every year more and more dual-enrollment students are graduating from high school with enough credit hours to forgo. their first year of college. Typically, these credit hours cost $150 per credit hour at EMCC, with a standard course being three credit hours.

If a student puts in enough high school hours for even one semester of college (12-18 hours) and attends a four-year college — like MUW or Mississippi State — they could save up to $5,000 on tuition tuition alone, not counting what they will not spend on fees, books and other expenses.

Bray added that in addition to reducing a financial burden, high school students can bridge the gap between high school graduation and college readiness.

“It builds confidence,” Bray said. “You have students who maybe think they’re not ready for college. By taking these courses while in high school, it gives them the confidence to know they can succeed in college.

Programs in other districts in the region

The Lowndes County School District offers dual enrollment for high school juniors and seniors, charging these students a significantly lower rate than the average college course.

Deputy Superintendent Robin Ballard said the LCSD offers the on-site classes, taught by qualified LCSD teachers, for $90 for the first class and $40 for the second class each semester.

She said the district’s reduced size and cost provide freshmen with foundation courses such as English Composition I and II, Western Civilization and College Algebra. LCSD has 133 high school and senior high school students taking advantage of dual enrollment this semester.

“What I see is that it takes some of the financial burden off the parent,” Ballard said. “Allowing that student to get that college credit to bridge that transition when they enter higher education.”

Starkville High School Principal Sean McDonnall said nearly 300 juniors and seniors are attending college in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District.

Each semester, students pay $104 for their first college course and $39 for each subsequent course thereafter. McDonnall said he hopes to expand dual enrollment and eventually have students spend partial days on a college campus while attending high school. The advantage now, McDonnall said, is to complete courses before entering higher education.

“I like it,” McDonnall said. “First, they get it much cheaper. They save a lot of money. And if they can take those freshman classes while they’re juniors and seniors, they’ll be ahead. We’re just preparing them for college.

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