High school students can earn college degree, diploma at same time

Olympic College hosts Running Start information night 6 p.m. March 22

BREMERTON — With the price of secondary education going up every year, students can use any advantage they can get.

Olympic College’s Running Start program provides several.

“It does go back to having that opportunity to get a head start in their college career,” said Jamie Flick, program coordinator for Running Start.

“It gives them a feel for what the college environment is going to be like. Some students say this is really their chance to take away that scariness factor before they finish high school and move out.

“This is that opportunity to gain that perspective and that experience.”

Running Start is a program for high school juniors and seniors younger than 21, who have not yet received a high school diploma, to earn both high school and college credit at the same time.

Students can take up to 15 credits each quarter for six quarters (three per school year, generally) tuition free at Olympic College, only having to pay the quarterly fees.

Those fees are usually about $75 a quarter, depending on what classes the student takes. However, students who qualify can get their fees waived and have access to OC’s textbook lending library, if they’re from low-income families.

Those students may also be able to take more than 15 credits a semester tuition-free, while students who don’t qualify would have to pay out of pocket, Flick said.

“We also have services at the college that help our students be successful,” she added. “Tutoring, computer labs, online library and other resources and support services … we really do try to provide students with as many resources as we can to make sure they are successful.”

Running Start was established in 1991 after the Learning by Choice Law was passed in 1990, stating college-in-the-high school programs be made available for Washington students.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, Flick said they had 899 students enrolled in Running Start in the 10th-day report of the fall quarter. Last year, they had about 834, she said.

“We’re noticing a large growth,” Flick said. “We’re anticipating this next year … at least 950 students, if not closer to 1,000.”

Perhaps one of the most substantial benefits of participating in Running Start, however, is being able to earn a high school diploma and a two-year college degree simultaneously.

Flick said the number of Running Start students who earn associates degrees when they finish high school varies from year to year. In the 2015-16 school year, she said 125 earned degrees. The year before, it was 165.

“This year … we have over 200 potential students graduating with both,” Flick said.

The application process for Running Start is simple. Students can work with their school counselor to get the process started, which includes applying as a student to Olympic College; taking an Accuplacer test to assess reading, writing and math skills so the student is placed in the right class levels in those subjects; and then turning in an application to Olympic College, along with a copy of Accuplacer scores and a high school transcript.

Flick said students need a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, or write a letter of appeal to get the GPA overlooked.

All students must take the Accuplacer test. Those who place below college-level in English can still participate in the program, with access to a limited selection of courses until they are able to place into college-level English by re-taking the Accuplacer or by passing the appropriate below-college-level class.

For more information, contact runningstart@olympic.edu or 360-475-7646. Information can also be found at www.olympic.edu/current-students/ running-start.

Michelle Beahm is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublish ing.com.