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Many high school students spend time preparing for the college transition. This can range from applying for scholarships to visiting campuses.

But according to Jennifer L. Collis, assistant provost for educational programming at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, and Angela Johnson, vice president of access and completion at Cuyahoga County Community College with multiple campuses, another option is to take college courses while in high school.

“There is a benefit in this all around, there is a benefit for students, families and school districts,” Johnson said. “For school districts, it increases the college-going culture and helps students think about college while in high school. It also helps students who think they might not be sure about going to college or are apprehensive about it. This can show them that they truly are ready.”

Besides boosting academic confidence, Johnson added there is a financial benefit for families. Completing courses while in high school can promote early graduation, and in turn, saves money on tuition.

Collis agreed, saying the cost-benefit also leads to less time in school and other educational opportunities.

“Students can take advantage of significant cost savings while also minimizing the total amount of time to college degree completion,” she explained. “Students could potentially reduce the total time by a year or two. Or, they may only choose to focus on completion of specific courses, like general education, which might open up space to add a minor or double major, or maybe even a term abroad or an internship without postponing graduation.”

Not only can students save money, but Johnson said taking classes early allows for a head start.

“It helps them get a jump on college,” she noted. “They can take a college-level English course that is the equivalent of their high school course, and knocking it out in one class. In situations like this, they could start college as a sophomore. This allows them to really get a leg up and graduate from college early, depending on how many credits they take.”

Collis added the cost savings can help students attend college, even if they originally didn’t see it possible.

“The cost savings, which is free in most cases, may offer students who wouldn’t have considered access to college a financially viable option, an opportunity to place themselves in a better position for such consideration,” she stated. “Also, programs like College Credit Plus can allow the reduction of time to degree or freeing up a semester or two for additional experiences.”

Lakeland’s College Credit Plus program, like all other two- and four-year public colleges in Ohio follows state regulations for course offerings and student participation, Collis noted.

At Tri-C, students can also take part in the College Credit Plus program. Through this program, students attend classes at any of the college’s four campuses.

“Their classmates don’t even know they’re high school students taking these courses,” Johnson said. “We also have partnership agreements where we can take the college courses right into the high schools. In that situation, they aren’t even leaving their building. Also, students have the opportunity to take classes online.”

Students can also explore what they’d like to study in college while taking classes in high school.

“College Credit Plus is a great way for a high school student to test themselves academically at the college level,” Collis said. “They learn not only the specific course content, but also experience campus life, learn outcome expectations, and have access to the full array of campus services, including student activities and leadership options.”

Johnson added, “By trying to do some of these things early, they can think about what they want to major in or what they want to do when they go away to college. This allows them to make some early decisions. They can learn and grow here as they start to think about their future.”

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