Kenai Peninsula Borough School District juniors did not pass up the chance to enroll in JumpStart this year.
Enrollment for the program, which offers reduced tuition for college courses to high school students, nearly doubled from 208 to 387 when registration was offered to the 11th graders for the first time in the fall of 2014.
“When we added juniors, my goodness, it became a lot more popular,” said Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary J. Turner. “I’ve had parents telling me for years they wanted their juniors to be eligible. We not only saw a large number of juniors, but also an increase in seniors enrolling.”
Doubling the number of students taking courses almost doubled the cost of the program, Turner said.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and Mayor Mike Navarre unanimously supported funding the difference, Turner said. KPC submitted a grant request of $726,987 for the next fiscal year that started July 1, $208,000 of which allows the college to provide reduced JumpStart tuition, up from $105,000 for the previous year.
The college applies for borough funding every year in January, and the funds are generated by a 0.1 mill property tax levy, Turner said.
Student Services Director John Pollock said he wants students to take advantage of the many opportunities the program opens up. Tuition per credit is one-third of the KPC tuition costs, he said.
“They can take a bite out of their college academics at a very, very reasonable price,” Pollock said. “A normal college student pays $174 per credit hour at KPC.”
The majority of students who enter the program are looking to knock out general college requirements, Pollock said. Juniors and seniors are limited to 100-200 level classes to start and each credit costs $58, he said.
“The program offers our juniors and seniors opportunities to receive college credit, and have the experience of taking a college-level class,” said borough school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff.
All of the credits transfer in the University of Alaska Anchorage system, and usually to out-of-state universities and colleges, Pollock said.
“A support structure is really important and gives extra chance of success in college,” Turner said.
Students acclimate better when they matriculate after taking their first college classes at home, Turner said. They have extra resources available to them while they try out the college experience, he said.
“Students who take classes through a program such as JumpStart are more likely to succeed in obtaining a higher education degree, and they have the opportunity to save thousands of dollars in college tuition while taking college-level classes such as these in high school,” Erkeneff said.
Kenai Peninsula students are never thrown right into the program, Pollock said. A high school counselor first meets with a student to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and what courses they are ready for academically, he said.
Parents must also sign off when their child enters JumpStart, Pollock said. A student must take a college placement test or provide proof of a complete college level math or English course in lieu of the test, he said.
Turner said very motivated students are best suited for a successful experience in the JumpStart program.
“We want the student to say ‘I want to take these courses,’” Turner said.
Each college course requires 2-3 hours of extra study time per-credit outside of their classes, which can eat into extracurricular activities such as sports or jobs, Turner said.
“That means if they are taking a three-credit class, they should plan on studying 6-9 hours outside the regular classroom,” Turner said.
JumpStart students can take up to seven credit hours, but must pay full tuition for any more than six, Pollock said. Ninth- through 12th-graders can take courses at KPC but will pay full tuition if not enrolled in the JumpStart program.
Courses fill up fast at KPC, so registering early is essential, Turner said. Planning ahead is an integral part of taking college-level classes, he said.
“Historically, Jumpstart registration was limited to two days at the start of the general registration period,” Pollock said. “This year we have expanded it to run for two extended windows.”
Early registration was April 2 through May 29. The current registration period began Monday and goes through Aug. 2, Pollock said.
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