School system preps high schoolers for 'JumpStart' next fall

Enrollment is open for the joint JumpStart early college initiative launching next fall that will allow some county high school students to earn enough college credits for an associate’s degree before high school graduation.

Students can enroll in JumpStart through Friday, Dec. 22, and information sessions are scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7 at Bonnie Branch and Elkridge Landing middle schools.

A collaboration between county schools and Howard Community College, interim superintendent Michael Martirano introduced the JumpStart initiative to the Board of Education in October to ease overcrowding in the county’s top three over-enrolled high schools – Centennial, Howard and Long Reach. Rather than initiating redistricting at the high school level, JumpStart is open to up to 500 students from Centennial, Howard and Long Reach who will transfer to the under-capacity Oakland Mills or River Hill high schools.

Dual enrollment opportunities outside of JumpStart are currently offered at the Applications and Research Lab and throughout the county’s 12 high schools. Caroline Walker, the school system’s director of school improvement and curricular programs, said currently about 400 students participate annually in dual enrollment.

“It’s very possible” that number could double in the coming year, she said, as the school system has more than 250 applications for JumpStart.

JumpStart began with 40 students at Oakland Mills High in 2015, and in 2018, will expand offerings at Oakland Mills and begin at River Hill.

Walker said JumpStart costs students half the community college’s regular tuition rate. There is no tuition for students receiving free or reduced-price meal services, also known as FARMs.

Students must cover fees and textbook costs for courses taken at HCC, Walker said, but assistance is available for FARMs students. Fees and textbooks for classes at school facilities are covered by the school system.

“A 3-credit course [at HCC] is $408, so that would be about $204,” Walker said. “Theoretically, depending on how many credits they take, they could save up to almost $5,000. That’s for students who take 60 credits.”

Walker said there are two programs in JumpStart: 30 credits and 60 credits. The 30-credit programs – offered at Oakland Mills, River Hill and the ARL – focus on STEM, cybersecurity, computer science, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, general studies, secondary teaching, public health and health science. Students must enroll by 10th grade to earn up to 30 college credits, equivalent to one year of college.

At Oakland Mills and River Hill, students enrolling as ninth-graders can graduate with up to 60 college credits as well as an Associate of Arts in general studies from HCC.

Both options allow students to transfer their credits to a four-year public college or university in Maryland, Walker said, or most private and out-of-state colleges or universities. Students in the 30-credit program can complete their associate’s degree at HCC within one year of high school graduation, and those in the 60-credit program can transfer credits to complete a bachelor’s degree.

JumpStart also features a flexible option for high school-based and HCC campus-based college credit opportunities that allow students to take one or more courses per semester. High school-based college credit offers high school students to take classes taught by college-qualified school system faculty at all 12 high schools.

Students in 11th and 12th grade can participate in the campus-based courses, some of which count toward high school graduation. Those courses are based at HCC and students may be eligible to enroll at the community college as a full-time student. The campus-based pathway is also open to eighth- through 10th-graders on a case-by-case basis.

Cindy Perterka, the vice president of student services at HCC, said the program offers “a fantastic alternative” for students to accrue college credit instead of advanced placement courses, which feature standardized tests.

“It’s good for students who maybe don’t do well on standardized tests,” Perterka said. “If students take nine to 12 credits while they’re still in high school, whether it’s advanced placement or dual enrollment, they’re more like to finish a four-year bachelor’s program.”

Through Jumpstart, students will have access to the community college’s resources, such as collegiate labs and the library. Transportation will be provided to students enrolled in the structured JumpStart programs, but students participating in the flexible options must provide their own transportation.

Before any final enrollment decisions are made in February, Walker said students are asked to meet with their counselors to learn more about JumpStart and the workload.

“It’s not because we’re going to tell people no,” she said. “We want to have a conversation about whether they fully understand and plan to do what they said they want to do on the form. … We’re calling this a pilot because we hope that it expands. It’s a lot to do at once, so this is a good place for us to get started.”

To learn more about JumpStart, go to www.hcpss.org/jumpstart.

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