Jackson County Early College is a new program in Michigan, open to all high school students in the County’s thirteen school districts. Called a “focused college credit” program, it places high school students in classes with college professors, supported by guidance counselors and teachers trained to deal with the younger student body.

The program is partially paid for by Michigan’s per-student aid, which is paid out through the student’s home districts on a case-by-case basis, making it free for the students, except for books and supplies. If they are in hardship, scholarships to cover those expenses are also available.

“I think it’s something people should take advantage of, and not a lot of people know about it,” said Tyler Church, a 17-year-old high school senior in the program. Before it began this year, he was a dual-enrollee, taking college courses to supplement his high school education. He says that JCEC better suits his needs, as the college classes can replace his high school ones, allowing him to essentially double-dip and achieve his high school diploma with the same effort he’s applying to his first college degree.

Other states have seen a huge success with similar programs, like Washington state’s Running Start, which allows juniors and seniors to finish high school in the nearest community college. JCEC is, so far, only for Jackson County. But it has already exceeded its expected enrollment, with nearly 300 students for its inaugural semester, which began on September 4th. Jean Logan, JCEC’s Administrator, expects that number to double by next fall.

“When those numbers exploded,” Logan said, “it was encouraging.”

“The philosophy of this program is to teach kids how to do college, and the only way you do that is by having the real college experience with a mixture of students in the classroom—traditional, nontraditional,” she also said, referring to how quickly the new JCEC students were settling into the college setting.

Photo: Shutterstock