Enrollment in the Running Start program for the 2014-2015 school year has topped all past years, with a head count of 916 high school students attending SPSCC. Running Start students make up 15 percent of the campus population and the number of students enrolled increases every year.
The program uses the same funding students would have used at their high school towards the tuition for their college classes. Nathan Levans, Running Start coordinator, said that he believes that high school students in the program add to the campus environment as a younger generation and a further representation of the community. He believes they add a new perspective that is not usually seen in many colleges.
The benefits of this program include a financial incentive for Running Start students, tuition for two years of college is paid for by the school. This gives many students that normally could not afford college tuition the opportunity to receive a higher education at a much lower cost.
However, research done by SPSCC shows that low-income students are underrepresented in the percentage of students that attend Running Start. The program generally appeals to Advanced Placement level students with higher income, and the high schools do not advertise as much to the low-income population. The college is currently working on finding solutions to the problem with the goal that the percentage of low-income students in the high schools will eventually equal the percentage of low-income students in the Running Start program.
However, the Running Start program doesn’t just benefit the students involved: higher enrollment in the program boosts the head count for the entire school, which allows SPSCC to offer a larger variety of classes. This benefits the whole student population, as students now have more options for classes.
“The running start students are a population that is college-ready, and have had the conversations about what it means to be a college student,” said Levans, addressing concerns of the ability of high school aged students to perform well in a college environment.
Running Start student Farzana Mohamedali, states that she does Running Start for the challenge and aims to earn her AA degree at the same time as her diploma. With about two or three hours of homework on average per night, Farzana believes that even though her classes are more challenging than high school, it is worth it because she can choose what subject of classes to take and tailors her schedule to her major. She feels that the difference in age between the Running Start students and the rest of the campus population allows both groups to learn from each other.
“It helps to have experienced people who know what they’re doing and how college classes work, and it helps to talk to them sometimes because they can help you out.” Farzana said.