Running Start students are regaining a larger portion of the student population at South Puget Sound Community College this year.
Rhonda Coats, vice president of student services, reported that the annual enrollment for Running Start students in the 2011-2012 year was 506 students, 557 this year.
Running Start is a state program in which high school students may take college classes while earning both college and high school credit for the classes. The state pays the tuition. Students have the option to attend some high school classes as well.
Anne Molenda, assistant director of advising and outreach at the college, said Running Start enrollment had dropped the last couple years due to changes in the program.
These changes included less funding for college credits. Running Start now only allows you to take one high school class if you are a full-time college student, or only two high school classes if you are a part-time college student.
Molenda said Running Start enrollment is growing again for several reasons. One reason is schools and families better understand the changes made to the program from last year.
Molenda also said another reason for the growing enrollment rates might be that the value of a degree has not lessened nor has the option to get one for cheaper lessened.
The government pays for Running Start students’ tuition, but they still have to pay for other student fees and supplies.
Kevin Ho, Brianna Smith, and Adam Golden are all part of the growing program. They had similar reasons for wanting to take classes at the college rather than at their high school.
Each of them knew at least ten people at their high school who were also attending the college.
Golden said he knew of fifteen Running Start students in his classes just this quarter, and knew of almost thirty at his high school.
Kevin Ho only takes classes at the college, even though he is a senior at Timberline High School. Ho is focused on getting the most out of school and likes the college environment where students “care about their education, and don’t dick around” like they do at his high school, he said.
Ho said he appreciates the professional attitude of the professors here more than the attitude of teachers in high school.
Brianna Smith is attending her second year at the college as a Running Start student. Smith has been a part-time student at the college since her junior year because she said she can get more done faster, she said.
She had scheduling issues at her school, Black Hills High School, and felt limited by time constraints and not a wide variety of classes to choose from.
Smith said the more mature college environment has made it easier to focus on school than when she was taking more classes with high school students, whom she said “are like children.”
Smith said she does feel like she sometimes misses out on senior events.
However, Ho said, “What I could potentially be missing out in high school won’t help my longtime career.”
Adam Golden is a junior at Tumwater High School, and also a full-time student at the college. Golden chose to do the program because he said it is a lot cheaper and it is the fastest way to get the most college credits.
Golden, Smith, and Ho all have taken advanced placement (AP) classes in high school, but still prefer the Running Start program.
The AP program allows high school students to take college-level classes in high school, and then are tested at the end of the year to determine whether or not they get college credit.
Golden said, however, that even by taking all of the AP classes at his high school and getting top scores on all of them, he could only get one year out of college. Doing Running Start allows him to get two years of college out of the way for cheaper.
Golden said he has a lot more options at the college, and “classes go further” here.
Ho plans to attend the University of Washington where he will be one of seven freshmen given direct admission into the civil and environmental engineering program. He said almost all of his credits will transfer.
Smith and Golden also have plans to transfer to a four-year school after they are done with high school.