Fifth Year Program Gives Students a Headstart Towards College Degree

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High school has always been known as the last four years of being a kid, not having adult responsibilities and enjoying it while it lasts. But, a new idea has come around, a fifth year of high school where students are able to dual enroll and by the end of the year, have an associate’s degree and a high school diploma.

This new program that has sparked attention in Michigan is called the Early Middle College program. Students are purposely taking another year of high school.

“The student must remain high school students to qualify for funding during the ‘13th grade’,” said Julie Mack reported MLive in the article “Free College: Kalamazoo County Students Can Graduate High School with Associate’s Degree in New 5- Year Program”.

According to the website Pix11, some students may take a fifth year to get more attention from college teams, get better options for college or to help meet demanding graduation requirements.

Schoolcraft and Gull Lake High School are piloting the Early Middle College program this year. Kalamazoo, Portage, Vicksburg, Comstock, Parchment, Galesburg-Augusta and Climax-Scotts are waiting for approval.

Not only will this Early Middle College program potentially help the high school dropout rate, but it could also improve college enrollment, completion and college costs.

Early Middle College is a program that high school students would start in their second year of high school. Sophomores would then take a class to learn about different strategies they could use in order to be successful in college. After a student’s sophomore year, students would then choose a course of study and begin taking dual enrollment classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College or an Education for Employment/Arts class, along with classes at their home high school.

What makes this program unique is that by the end of a student’s fifth year of high school, they can acquire an associate’s degree and go right into a job or a four year college. Through this program, students can take almost three full years of college classes that are paid for by their home school.

If  students decide to join this program and take a fifth year of high school, they may be missing out on traditional senior activities since they are planning on returning to school for another year.

“The senior year stuff is what you look forward to throughout high school,” said junior Hannah Pittman.

The KRESA website states that after a student’s thirteenth year they can have an associate’s degree in graphic design and machine-tool technology or a certificate for graphic design, machine-tool technology, welding or personal computer technician.

The Early Middle College program has been gaining attention in Kalamazoo County and is a great opportunity for high school students to gain a free associate’s degree. Although this program does mean another year in high school, which some students might dread, there are many benefits to participating in this program.

As a Kalamazoo Promise school, some students may not want to stick around another year just to get an associate’s degree when they have free college tuition waiting for them. Seniors especially may not be very interested in the program because they’re already getting free college because of the Promise.

“If I had the Promise, I would not be interested, but since I live in Vicksburg and don’t have the promise I would consider the program,” said senior Kirsten Haines.

This may be why the program hasn’t gained very much attention in Kalamazoo Public Schools. People probably want to get out of high school and get started with college that is already paid for by the promise.

Although the Early Middle College is a great way for high school students to get two years of college paid for, it may not be the right fit for KPS because there is a great program like the Kalamazoo Promise.

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