Program Offers Local Students a Free College Degree

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VHS student Casey Grace organizes equipment for an experiment in his KVCC physics class.

Steve Fryling, Vicksburg Schools Communications Director

What if there was an option in high school where you attend classes for an extra year, but in return graduate with a two-year college degree that was free of charge? That day is here for students at Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and other county high schools in the Early Middle College program, known as EMC. As two of only 137 schools statewide that provide this pathway, these schools are providing students yet another way to earn a college degree without charge to their families. The degree can provide immediate access to a career or as a way to a four-year school to complete a bachelor degree.

Since these students must also meet the requirements for their Michigan High School Diploma, they start in their freshman year by taking as many high school requirements as possible. In the next several years they begin taking college level classes in their chosen area by either attending KVCC, attending classes taught at the high school by instructors brought in by KVCC or by current high school staff certified by KVCC to teach college level classes locally during certain parts of the day. Transportation is offered to KVCC. Due to the specialized nature of many of the classes, a vast majority of the EMC students attend KVCC to get their college credits.

Vicksburg awarded its first diploma to an EMC student in June to Casey Grace. Casey signed up for the program several years ago when it first came into being and this spring will have an Associate Degree in General Studies as well as a Vicksburg diploma, saving a year in time and $6,000 in tuition costs over a traditional high school graduate who goes on to get an Associate Degree.

Casey says he decided to become an EMC student in his sophomore year at VHS because, “The high school ‘scene’ was not for me. I knew what my goals were. I wanted to get a college degree as quickly and with as little expense as possible. This was the perfect way to do it.” Grace has been accepted at WMU and will be going on to study secondary education there. “While other kids were at home or out socializing, I was working overnight shifts at McDonalds to pay my future way through Western. Without having to pay tuition at KVCC, I was able to put a lot away. I also changed majors three times, but I went through all of that here at KVCC, so I did not waste time and money at WMU.”

Grace has been at KVCC full time since his junior year in high school. He says he did not find it awkward to be a “year 13” student or watch others graduate from high school last spring. “Everybody who goes to college will be a year 13 student eventually,“ said Grace, “I just did it for free and got a year ahead of everyone.” He said he wasn’t treated differently by other students or staff because he was a high school student. “Unless you tell people you are a high school student, they would have no way of knowing, so you are treated like everyone else,” said Grace.

Because the program is very new and competes against other options like dual enrollment, Advanced Placement classes, and the Education for Employment program, EMC in Vicksburg currently has a very small enrollment but looks to grow as high school students look for options that are tailored to their needs and desires for post high school education.

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