Better than extra credit

High school students take advantage of CMC college credit courses

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— Some 75 Steamboat Springs High School students are taking advantage of a program that allows them to take college courses at Colorado Mountain College.

"This year we have an extremely large number of high school students taking classes here," said Dan Schaffrick, a student adviser at CMC for the past 18 years. "It is the most we have ever had."

Schaffrick's job is to assist with helping the students enroll in classes that will not only meet their high school graduation requirements but also will help them work toward a college degree, he said.

"A college course can count as a high school credit and a college credit," he said. "It allows the students to get dual credit."

Schaffrick said he believes the program is a benefit to the students who take advantage of it.

"They are not only starting to develop a college transcript, but also it is an excellent opportunity to get exposed to the college environment," Schaffrick said. "This gives them an idea of what the workload in college will be like."

Every year the program has been offered interest has grown, Schaffrick said.

High school seniors and juniors have the opportunity to take college courses at the local college because of legislation titled Post-Secondary Option that the state Legislature approved more than 12 years ago.

The legislation required high schools in the state to offer juniors and seniors opportunities to help them prepare for the work force or higher education.

Because of the legislation, the Steamboat Springs School District developed the Super Graduate Program, said Lynette Lochausen, who has been a high school counselor for almost 15 years.

Lochausen and Mike Campbell, who is also a counselor at the high school, work closely with Schaffrick.

Lochausen said the program gives students a chance to take classes at CMC that the school doesn't offer.

Before a student enrolls for a class at CMC, the student meets with Lochausen or Campbell to go over what classes at CMC could count for high school credit and college credit.

"This program has helped students move forward in their education," she said. "We have had students get their associate degree from the college before they even have received their high school diploma.

"A student who earns the two-year degree can enter college as a junior."

Kandra Sharp, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, is spending most of her time this semester taking classes at CMC.

"This is a great program," Sharp said. "I really enjoy taking college classes. I have learned a lot. This has also helped me get started working toward a college degree."

Sharp is taking three college classes that are worth 11 credits. She is taking Western Civilization, English Composition and College Biology.

"I have learned so much this semester," she said, adding that she plans on transferring the credits to Colorado State University. "The classes are very interesting."

Students who take classes at CMC are responsible for paying for the tuition. However, students who take courses at CMC that count as high school graduation requirements are reimbursed the tuition cost.

The school district will reimburse a student for six credits, usually two classes, per semester, Lochausen said.

"A student could conceivably have us pay for 12 credits a year," she said. "For a majority of the students who have received an associate degree, we have paid for those classes."

The average cost the Steamboat Springs School District pays a semester in tuition to CMC for the program is about $5,000, she said.

Campbell, who has been advising students at the high school for about 12 years, has had some students not use the program to its potential.

"Not all of the students use it correctly, but a majority of them do," he said. "Some students bite off more than they can handle. Or they take a class at the college to avoid taking one here. They are jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire."

However, Campbell said he believes the program is a good opportunity for students who are college bound.

"It is a good program for students who are looking to earn an associate's degree or to get ready to go to college," he said. "We have worked well with CMC. This program has been successful because of the two institutions."

Sharp is hopeful to enter CSU next fall with 25 credits. She plans on taking 14 credits next semester.

"I thought I would get a heads up on college," said Sharp, who wants to be an orthodontist. "Plus this is a lot cheaper.

"Next year, I will basically have my freshman year of college complete."

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