For the past 15 years Michigan students in grades 9 through 12 have been able to register and take college courses while still attending their local high school based upon their district’s policy requirements or through the career technical program in their county. This opportunity has given hundreds of student the opportunity to get a head start on college, or has it? Some of the courses taken by students have not transferred to their university, while other classes did not end up fitting into their final career plan. Concerned with the sometimes haphazard opportunities for our students to get a head start in college and the increasing cost of a university education, the Michigan Department of Education has developed a way for local school districts to partner with a college to provide post-secondary education and career training: The Early/Middle College.
Columbia School District, in cooperation with Jackson County Intermediate School District, Jackson Area Career Center, other Jackson County school districts, Jackson College and Jackson Area Manufactures Association, Enterprise Group is participating in the Jackson Area College and Career Connection Early/Middle College, which has been nicknamed JAC3. This program is in the final months of our pilot year and has had a focus in precision machining and welding with participation from over a dozen manufactures from the Jackson area. To keep this three year program a tuition fee opportunity for our students going into their junior year of high school, contributing companies and Columbia School District will each underwrite $6,000 to assist with the cost of college credit.
This distinctive pathway gives students who have an interest in careers in a manufacturing field an opportunity to begin as a junior and work towards their high school diploma, gain work experience/apprenticeship and earn college credit adding up to an Associates’ Degree over the three years in the program. While participating in the JAC3 program, students may work up to 24 hours per week during school and benefit from the opportunity to work up to 48 hours per week during holiday, spring and summer breaks. Students at the end of their third year may also earn a career – technical credential and a placement with a company upon graduation. Graduates of this program may look forward to earning $25 to $45 per hour upon obtaining a position with a partnering manufacture.
To qualify for the JAC3 Early/Middle College program, prospective students must be “on track” credit-wise for graduation and have a good attendance record, along with the skills and work-ethic to experience success in college courses and the technical focused learning activities. Conley (2014) would add that students in an early/middle college will experience success from having good study abilities, skills in the area of time management, orientation toward their career goals, focused determination when working towards their life aims, truthfulness and an awareness to how they are progressing in their classes, the ability to seek assistance from resources, and proficiency in the use of technology. Columbia Central High School counselor, Wendy Diefenthaler (Wendy.Diefenthaler@myeagles.org ) and principal Daniel Hyliard (Daniel.Hyliard@myeagles.org ) are able to assist students as they apply for this tuition free college and career focused program. If you have questions regarding the great programs and opportunities at Columbia School District, call me at 5175926641 or email me at Pamela.Campbell@myeagles.org .