Program allows students simultaneous degrees

Thursday, March 14, 2019

As the cost of a college education rises, and along with it the debt to attain a degree, different levels of society will have to find various ways to make education accessible and affordable.

To that end, Cape Girardeau School District launched The Accelerated College Experience, or ACE, this year, testing the approach with five students.

According to a recent story by Marybeth Niederkorn, ACE supports selected students through enough credits they can earn an associate of arts degree or the 42-hour CORE 42 classes toward a bachelor's degree as they attend high school. The program, in partnership with Southeast Missouri State University and Three Rivers College, is supported financially by the district, meaning no cost to the students except books and student fees.

All five students in the pilot program are pursuing the college credits, and also have jobs and participate in extracurricular activities. The students are supported by guidance counselors. The district has to weigh a student's maturity since the coursework creates a heavy workload, about 12 or 15 hours per semester while just a junior in high school. The college courses count toward high school credits, so if the students complete their work, they can graduate high school with an associate's degree under their belt. And without the college debt.

It will be interesting to see how this program grows in the future, and how many students the district will be able to afford to support in the coming years. For students, completing the coursework and graduating with two degrees will be a hard-earned success that will allow them to not just avoid debt, but to begin their careers two years earlier. The program will be helpful for those who show academic acuity but face financial struggles that might otherwise limit their post-secondary education.

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