Middle College: Head Start, Financially Smart

Junior Raul Valdez is getting a head start on college, the first in his family to go

Mitch Hendrickson earned 62 credits and an associate’s degree while still a high school student, for free. On top of that, he’s a full year ahead of his peers at Central Michigan University.

It’s Hendrickson’s first year at CMU, after completing Wyoming High School’s Middle College program. He’s already a junior and halfway to completing a double major in marketing and logistics management.

Hendrickson was in Wyoming’s first cohort — and graduated in May — for the dual-enrollment program. It’s meant huge savings for him: as much as $47,000 considering if he had headed to CMU paying full tuition and expenses of $23,494 per year as a traditional college freshman. Plus he’s had the opportunity to get used to college courses.

Wyoming High School started the program in 2012 with 50 students. Of those, 32 received their associate’s, another eight had 45 or more credits, and some students had as many as 70. Four graduated early and did not complete the fifth year at GRCC, and six dropped out of the Middle College Program.

“I loved it,” Hendrickson said. “It is a great program. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t do it.”

Hendrickson’s CMU roommate, Eli Ledy, is also a Wyoming Middle College graduate, now pursuing pre-medicine.

Wyoming High School students tally college credits through the Middle College program beginning their sophomore year. By adding a fifth year as Wyoming students– with college classes that year taken on the Grand Rapids Community College campus– they complete their associate’s degree.

At the very least they are saving the $111 per credit hour in GRCC tuition, or about $7,000 for 60 credits. Currently 185 10th through 13th grade students are enrolled in Middle College. “We pay for everything,” said Wyoming High School Principal Nate Robrahn.

The cost for classes is paid for through the per-pupil foundation allowance from the state.

“They take general ed courses that will transfer anywhere. Typically, most state schools take all of them,” Robrahn said .

Junior Claudia Gonzalez said she chose to enroll in the Wyoming Middle College to save money
Junior Claudia Gonzalez said she chose to enroll in the Wyoming Middle College to save money

A High Level of Success

Academically, students do very well, he said. They support one another as they move through the program. “The kids become like a little family, and they take care of each other,” he said.

Middle College student Junior Raul Valdez is the first in his family to go to college. “It’s really speeding up the process of getting through college and saving a lot of money,” he said.

Raul plans to transfer to Ferris State University and possibly study pharmacy after completing the program. “It really encourages me to do better in classes,” he said.

Junior Jonah Hernandez transferred to Wyoming from another local high school to take advantage of Middle College. He plans to transfer to Michigan State University to possibly pursue a journalism degree after he gets his associate’s. “I like the fact that they are actually college professors rather than high school teachers,” he said.

Junior Claudia Gonzalez said Middle College is a great way to reach her goals. “I know my parents couldn’t really afford college, and so I took this chance… I like the fact that it’s an actual college class. It’s not dumbed down for us, even though we’re high schoolers still.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2012. Read Erin's full bio

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