High school students get a running start at SPSCC

Running Start student James Wilis hard at work on his laptop in the Student Center. Photo by Sarah Sage.

The 2011-2012 school year played host to 754 Running Start students registered to begin in the fall, approximately 10 percent of SPSCC’s student body. This quarter, 688 students are actively participating in the program.

The number of Running Start students has always been between 9 and 11 percent of the total student body, said Associate Director of Advising and Outreach, Anne Molenda.

In previous years Running Start students were able to enroll in more than 15 credits but now the most a Running Start student can take per quarter are 15 credits, which then also allows for one additional high school class.

When these fall 2011 credit restrictions were implemented, the college experienced a 17 percent decrease in Running Start enrollment from the year before, though the number remained within the predicted boundaries.

Despite this small fluctuation in enrollment numbers, the program continues. The only requirements are for the student to be either a junior or senior in high school, and for their test scores to qualify them for English 101.

The Running Start program began in the early 1990s,originally to provide high school students with an opportunity to begin college courses early and without the struggle of paying tuition.

Former Running Start student, Anne Gamab, said her decision for participating in the program was because she knew how much it would help financially. Gamab also said she knew participating would give her a “little bit of a head start.” She chose to utilize the part time option of the program and intends to finish her degree this year, after already graduating from high school.

According to Molenda, a full time college schedule for a Running Start student provides the opportunity to finish a two year associate degree before graduating high school.

Current Running Start student, Mikala Glacken began working on her degree early in order to limit the amount of time she will need to spend in college after graduating from high school. Besides beginning classes early, Glacken viewed Running Start as a challenge and an escape from a trivial high school social scene.

Running Start students enjoy a complete college atmosphere as well as an opportunity to begin coursework before finishing high school, said Molenda. When enrolled in the program, students are exposed to all campus activities and clubs, including Student Senate, she said. They are also permitted to participate in Study Abroad programs and work on campus.

According to Glacken, though still technically in high school, Running Start students are treated like adults rather than children. Students are held responsible for their actions, which, to Glacken, is a refreshing change from typical high school “babying,” she said.

Being previously involved in the program, Gamab said that all students, Running Start or not, are treated equally on campus.

Though the program is continually evolving, there are various opportunities for students to learn about the requirements and limitations of Running Start. According to Molenda, “this fall, things seem to be going much smoother as students are aware of the limits and what they mean.”