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Classes count towards high school diploma and college degree under new pilot program

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Juniors and seniors at Rockford High School will be able to earn up to 30 credit hours at Ferris State University for free in a pilot program announced today.

Say you’re taking calculus at Rockford High School, when you get to college, you could test out of calculus but you wouldn't get any credits.

The pilot program differs from dual enrollment programs.

If a student passes a single calculus class, it will count toward both their high school diploma and their college degree.

“In dual enrollment frequently students are going to leave the school facility,” FSU President David Eisler said. “In dual enrollment the schedules don’t align. The semesters don’t align. This is something that’s aligned to fit with the high school program and the high school schedule."

In this pilot program, Rockford Public Schools will pick up the tuition cost.

The district will pay a reduced rate of $120 per credit hour to FSU because Rockford teachers will teach the classes. They'll be as rigorous as a college course, Eisler said.

Rockford has set aside roughly $30,000 in the first year to pay for tuition. It’s unclear how many students will be able to take advantage of it this early on.

Students will have to apply and be accepted to FSU first.

“If we can find a way to trim one year off college, think about what that will do for that student,” Eisler said. “I think it’ll be a significant head start. I think the success of students in this will be outstanding.”

Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler says the district will continue to offer dual enrollment but wondered aloud “why would you want to take it?”

“It’ll be less expensive to take the concurrent class, you stay on campus, it’s convenient for the student and it’s a greater opportunity for the school district as well,” Shibler said.

The district hopes to save students money and better prepare them for college.

“Many times freshmen coming into college, even though they’ve been prepared well at the high school level, find that it's a culture shock. I mean, ‘I’m taking this class and this professor is asking me to read 30 books and do a couple of papers?’ They’re surprised sometimes with the workload,” Shibler said.

Frank DiLeo's oldest son graduated from Rockford last year. He got good grades, but DiLeo says the adjustment to college was tough.

“His first semester there was just  a lot thrown at him; moving away from home, athletics and the academics. I think this would be a great way to get used to the academic portion, or to at least understand what’s coming ahead,” DiLeo said.

DiLeo’s middle son will be a senior at Rockford High next school year. DiLeo says he’ll encourage him to look into this new program.

Officials say the program is a first of its kind in Michigan; and something Shibler says he’s been trying to get done for years.

“We’ve really merged together two cultures; a public school system and a university. And I think that’s not easily done and I think that’s significant and very special,” Eisler said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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