BELDING — Montcalm Community College has a goal to eventually include all seven Montcalm County public school districts within its Early College program.
As the college pursues that goal, it can officially add an Ionia County district to that list.
At Monday evening’s Belding Area Schools School Board meeting, board members voted unanimously to partner with the college and offer the program to its students beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
“Anytime we have opportunities to extend to our students to continue their education beyond Belding High School, but do it in a cost-effective measure while making it easier for them to transition to another secondary school is great,” Board President Tom Humphreys said. “It has met our satisfaction as far as a program that they will offer and it looks like this will work out well for everybody involved.”
The program allows high school students to gain college credits without the cost of tuition while they attend high school. During their junior year of high school, students can enter the program and begin taking classes at MCC, essentially becoming a full-time college student.
After three years of taking classes at MCC, totaling five years of combined high school and college courses, the student can earn both their high school diploma as well as an associate’s degree at no cost to the student, aside from travel and food expenses, as well as costs for books.
Each candidate must take a set of test to determine his or her “skill level,” and emotional readiness for the more self-motivated environment of college.
Those accepted into the program meet with a mentor between their sophomore and junior years, learning the skills they will need to compete on the college level.
Unlike the current partnership Belding Area Schools has with Davenport University, which is limited as far as what careers students can pursue, MCC’s entire list of programs and classes are available to students.
Just as with the Davenport program, once a student is enrolled, they will be officially considered students of the college, and all resources available at the college will be open to them, such as counseling, resource rooms and other services.
Superintendent Sara Shriver said the partnership will be a mutual benefit for both the college as well as Belding Area Schools.
“We have been working for the last few months with Montcalm Community College, they have wanted to include Belding in their proposal to add Belding into the Montcalm County Early College program, as we do have students that will eventually choose to go to Montcalm Community College,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for up to eight of our students to apply and possibly be accepted into the early college program in August of their junior year.”
According to the agreement between the college and Belding Area Schools, MCC will receive the full “full time equivalent” (FTE) of state aid payments for each child that participates to cover tuition, books, and fees.
Four out of the eight students must be first generation college students, with the remaining four students selected by MCCC staff via a lottery system.
Students are assessed and then work on soft skills and academic skills. Both must be mastered before college courses can start
“Belding Area Schools board and administration fully believe in providing the best possible learning environments and opportunities for all students,” Shriver said. “To add to our list of offerings for Belding students, the high school administration and superintendent support the addition of a partnership with the Montcalm Community College in the Early College Program.”