MILLARD, Neb. (KMTV) —
Students across the Omaha metro are graduating from high school this week but for 93 seniors at Millard South High School, they're graduating with more than just a high school diploma, but an associate's degree from Metropolitan Community College.
Finishing up its first graduating class, the students took 20 dual-credit classes during their four years of high school. The classes were taught by Millard South teachers, who are approved by MCC to teach the courses.
"Through the early college partnership with Metro Community College our students are sitting in classes same as their non-early college peers taught by high school teachers who have been approved as college professors and they're earning college credit for what they're doing at Millard South in the high school," said Amy Wesely, Millard South's early college coordinator.
The program has been extremely popular with the students in the district. In fact, the district is turning down prospective students because all of the courses are filled.
"I still kind of don't feel like I have it, I feel like a high school graduate, but when I get it in my hands and it starts making a difference for me I'll be really excited," said Grant Mitera, a Millard South senior who was a graduate in this year's program. Mitera is heading to UNO next semester to study engineering.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to save some money and time in getting college credit," Mitera said. "I do think it definitely helped me with what I'll need in college. A lot more homework than the regular classes."
"It will make college easier and if you don't want to do college it will help you get ahead," said Brenna Wright, a senior in the program who is planning to study engineering in the fall. "I actually went to a different school district originally and this program is what brought me to this school district."
"These students have essentially saved two years off of their college education so they're going to save money beyond what they can imagine," Wesely said.
While most schools offer advanced placement course, Wesely says the program MCC is beneficial because it gives students college credit without having to worry about how they fare on a test.
They earn credit for every single day they come to class and every assignment they take so early college is not one high-stakes test, it's not reliant on an AP exam at the end of the year.
College isn't for everyone. Some of the students use this degree to get started in the work force right after high school. Others are using this to get out of the general education requirements at most colleges.
"They can just jump in to their major level classes and get in to the course work they are excited about and they want to pursue what they are passionate about and if they haven't decided a major yet they have the opportunity to take courses in different fields and explore," Wesely said.
With the cost of college increasing, the program is affordable for most families. Each course costs $36 but if a student has a 3.0 GPA or higher, the course price drops to $18. The 96-hour 20-credit course could cost a family as little as $360 for a student to obtain their associate degree.
"The cost of college is rising significantly every year and being able to save two years worth of tuition, room and board it's hard to place a value on it," Wesely said.
"You start thinking about how much college costs and you realize it will save you two years worth of tuition it really seems like a great idea," Mitera said.
The students are finishing up their last week of classes and they say they don't regret being a part of the first graduating class in the early college program.
"It will make college easier and if you don't want to do college it will help you get ahead," Wright said.
"I think I'm excited to have two years of college paid for already and get a head start," Mitera said.