UH expands credit program for high schoolers
By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer
Hawai'i teenagers will no longer have to graduate from high school before entering college.
Starting next semester, a national program called Running Start will allow some high school juniors and seniors to take community college classes while working toward their high school diploma.
The program marks the first time in Hawai'i that the Department of Education and University of Hawai'i have agreed on a statewide, joint-credit venture.
"Kids could complete an associate's (degree) and a high school diploma at the same time," said Mike Rota, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the community colleges. "That's what we are working toward."
If the Department of Education and UH can work out the technicalities of screening and enrolling students by January, Running Start would give students a chance to start college early and get a taste of the university experience this year. It would also funnel some of the brightest high school students into local colleges for a portion of the school week.
"Many of these students are ones who would never normally come to a community college," said David Cleeveland, sociology professor at Honolulu Community College. "They may be headed to Stanford. These students should raise the standards and the norms in our classes eventually."
UH and the Department of Education have experimented since last fall with a pilot program at HCC. Selected students from the six Honolulu district high schools Kaiser, Kalani, Kaimuki, McKinley, Farrington and Roosevelt were able to take daytime classes at HCC and receive dual credit.
This fall, 26 students are enrolled in the program; 18 were enrolled last spring.
Cleeveland hopes HCC will soon see several hundred Running Start students. Eventually the program could bring in private school students and home-schooled students.
Rota said it will be fairly easy for the community colleges across the state to take in the new students. But a Running Start task force meets next week to continue to work on the more complex issues which college courses match up with the graduation requirements by the Department of Education, how students will be selected, how to reconcile attendance with differing school calendars and other issues.
Cleeveland said HCC faculty, for example, suggested starting an orientation session especially for Running Start students. Among other things, they need to know that even when the high schools have holidays, classes at UH are still in session and they are expected to attend.
Although the program has proven successful during its pilot phase, UH officials aren't expecting a rush of students; most high schoolers at the beginning of the school year commit themselves to a two-semester schedule.
Still, in a survey Cleeveland conducted, 83 percent of the Running Start participants said they preferred or strongly preferred college over high school classes.
Students are admitted to Running Start with a school counselor's recommendation, an application to the community college and an appropriate score on English and math entrance tests. Students who cannot afford the cost of the classes are given scholarships.
Gear Up, a federally financed program that works to bring low-income students to college, would pay the tuition and fees for students who qualify for the free or reduced-cost lunch program.
While UH has traditionally allowed some high school students to attend its classes part-time, the enrollment has been limited. Students were not allowed to receive combined college and high school credit, and they had to take the classes on their own time.
Although junior and senior high school students blend in easily on a college campus, only 35 to 40 high schoolers have been enrolled in the 45,000-student UH system at one time, Cleeveland said.
Washington state, by comparison, has 16,000 students involved in its Running Start program.
Reach Jennifer Hiller at email@example.com or 525-8084.