Traverse City News and Events

More Students Attending College -- In High School

Feb. 22, 2017

College – it’s not just for college students anymore. Data at Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) shows more students are graduating and entering college having earned credits already. Last school year, 1,242 students took advantage of one of the three programs to earn college credit at TCAPS. The programs give students a taste of the college experience, accelerate their path to college graduation – and save them some serious tuition dollars.

Advanced Placement (AP) classes, part of the national College Board, allows students to take college-level courses and exams while still in high school. Depending on their scores on the tests and the particular college a student attends, AP tests can exempt students from required course or stand as college credits.

Under dual enrollment, students take classes in both high school and college. That’s perhaps easier for students at Central High School, who can walk next door to Northwestern Michigan College (NMC); This year 156 students from Central are dual enrolled versus 139 at West, both representing record numbers.

Early college is the newest offering; it began in the 2014-15 academic year. Students attend high school for five years rather than four and, upon graduation following the fifth year, they will have earned a significant number of credits or, depending on the program, perhaps an associate’s degree. One hundred eighteen students are enrolled in early college this year, a record high.

Traverse City West counselor Tom Ford says the advantages of the programs are plentiful, in terms of accelerated learning opportunities – and cost savings. “There’s no tuition cost,” says Ford of the AP program, though there is a cost for the tests.

Danielle Priest, a West senior, took two AP classes last year and is now taking AP literature, psychology and statistics. She says last year’s AP government class has already had an impact on her. “I learned how the government is structured. I turned 18 in October and voted in November,” she says.

TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma’s perspective on the AP program is not only as the leader of the district, but as a father of two students who have taken advantage of it.

His son is in his second year at Michigan State, having entered college with more than 40 credits. His daughter, a high school senior, will enter Western Michigan with more than 35 credits.

“My son will take just a little more than four years for a Master’s in Business Analytics and a (bachelor’s) degree in Computer Science. My daughter is looking at a double major [graduating] in four years. It’s given them a leg up.”

In addition to cost savings, Soma says the program also demonstrates to college administrations that the incoming student is serious about his or her education. “They’re also recognized by the faculty at college,” says Soma. “My daughter is already experiencing that, and she’s not even at Western yet.”

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