The school district has reached an agreement with Ferris State University (FSU) that will enable students to earn college credit for classes while still in high school, without putting a dent in their pocketbook.
The Sparta-FSU program is called “concurrent enrollment (CE),” which is not the same as other models such as dual enrollment. With concurrent enrollment, high-school teachers teach the courses.
There are a number of advantages to CE, said High School Principal Matt Spencer.
Among those advantages:
- The district — not parents — will pay the cost of the classes
- Students earn three credits per class, all before enrolling in college
- Students learn more responsibility at an earlier age
- Students know and trust the high-school teachers who will be teaching the classes at the high school
- The college credits will transfer to any Michigan college or university except the University of Michigan. Credits may also transfer to out-of-state colleges
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Three Classes to Start
Two classes, possibly a third, will initially be offered starting with the 2015-16 school year, with an eye on additional subjects in subsequent years.
The first two courses that will be offered are English 150 and Literature 150. Sparta also hopes to offer CARE 102, a career exploration class. The minimum requirements for enrolling in CE classes are that students must have at least a 3.0 grade point average and score between 17 and 19 on the American College Testing ready assessment test.
“We hope in a year or two to expand to other disciplines and other opportunities,” Spencer said. “Our hope is that math, science and social studies are next.”
Spencer projected around 90 of the 850 high school students would enroll in CE classes the first year.
“We want to be as inclusive as possible with as many students taking concurrent enrollment, honors and Advance Placement classes,” he said.
Junior Skylar Berenbrock plans to be one of the first to sign up. She hopes to enroll at Michigan State University after graduating and perhaps major in marketing.
Easy on the Wallet
“It’s a good idea to get ahead and finish college earlier,” Skylar said. “It’s less of a financial burden on my parents.”
Junior Amber Chapman said she’s mulling either Central Michigan University or Western Michigan University, where she might major in special education or child development. It’s been a goal to make a difference with special needs students since growing up with her 11-year-old sister, who is developmentally delayed.
“They’re innocent and fun,” said Amber. “I love working with them. I like the idea of getting college credit and saving a lot of money before college.”
Spencer said the students will receive rigorous college courses taught by the high-school teachers they know and have positive relationships with.
“And they do not have to leave the high school campus, and the transferability to other colleges after they graduate from high school is vast,” Spencer said.
High-school teachers will work as adjunct professors who qualify to teach college courses if they have a master’s degree and are Advanced Placement instructors.
“That’s the largest hurdle for a high school to get over: finding staff members who qualify.”
Spencer said interest in a CE program came from surveying parents and students.
“We’ve been talking for years what the right steps for Sparta students would be, and the early college model was the best way for us to go,” he said.