College initiative

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:23 PM

The Spring Lake High School junior is among 20 students in Ottawa County who are participating in the first year of the Northwest Ottawa County Early College Initiative, a program that allows selected high school juniors to earn an associate's degree while spending an additional year of high school.

Students take Muskegon Community College courses and high school courses at the same time, beginning with their junior year of high school. 

Students from Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Allendale and Coopersville are involved in the program. School districts pay for tuition, technology fees and books through state-allotted per-pupil funding. Families in the program must pay for transportation.

Burgess said the program gives her the opportunity to break away from the normal high school work and crowd, while challenging her with new material.

When she first heard about the program last year, Burgess said she thought the concept was “cool” despite having to stay in high school for an additional year.

“It’s a great opportunity to get started on my future,” she said.

Dan Rinsema-Sybenga, dean of workforce and talent development for Muskegon Community College, said students are supposed to take 12 credit hours in the first year.

Tuition is set at in-district rates — $89.50 per contact hour, a $17 technology fee per contact hour and a $35 registration fee per semester. Rinsema-Sybenga said tuition costs between $550 to $600, but that doesn’t include the cost of books, which varies depending on the course.

Rinsema-Sybenga said the partnership with the school districts is part of a wider effort to make college courses more accessible to high school students, and they plan to increase the opportunity for students in the Zeeland and Holland areas.

“We’re always interested in expanding access to college education,” he said.

Students in the program were selected after an application process during their sophomore year. They also had to take a test to indicate their reading, math and writing levels.

Before the school year began, selected students attended a three-day “boot camp” to help them learn more about faculty expectations of college students, and acquaint them with campus and the resources available to help them.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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