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College opportunities growing fast

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JCTC offering free tuition to some

By Mallory Bilger

    SHEPHERDSVILLE - The excuse that college courses cost too much should no longer stop Bullitt County’s juniors and seniors from jump-starting their higher educations.

    Jefferson Community and Technical College’s Donna Miller was welcomed with excitement after announcing to Board of Education members Tuesday that JCTC’s Bullitt County campus would offer its courses free to eligible students who qualify for reduced or free lunch - which Director of Secondary Schools David Marshall estimated is between 35 to 40 percent of the total junior and senior student body.

    “It really can take away these barriers,” he said.

    Currently only Bullitt County’s high school seniors can take courses at the JCTC Bullitt campus.

    The courses count toward both high school and college credits. Courses cost less than many universities in the area - $180 for three credit hours.

    Beginning in August 2010 the courses will be offered to the district’s juniors as well.

    If a student takes the maximum number of courses allowed during his junior and senior years, he could graduate from high school with 24 college credit hours transferrable to most any state and some private colleges. At most schools, that’s only two courses away from an Associate’s degree.

    “I’m so excited I can barely contain myself,” Miller said.

    Miller added that the course offerings would be expanded to include additional introductory classes, which students often take their freshman year of college.

    Marshall said the expanded JCTC Bullitt campus program allowed students to be more prepared out of high school to enter their specialized degree programs.

    “Every opportunity we can give our students to move forward and prepare for their future is a plus and this opportunity is truly outstanding,” Marshall said.

    The program had 31 students enrolled last year – a number Marshall and Miller expect to increase as the courses become more accessible. But students do have to meet some basic requirements to participate. Each student must be enrolled in one of the district’s public high schools, have a grade point average of 3.0 or above, an ACT score of at least 22 in math, 20 in reading and 18 in English.

    Students who take courses at the JCTC campus on Buffalo Run Road in Shepherdsville can provide their own transportation or ride a district-supplied bus. Marshall said most students taking the courses spend at least half of their school day at the Buffalo Run Campus.

    “While leaving your campus to take college classes off site may not be for everyone, it does present an excellent opportunity to prepare themselves for the next level while still having the safety and security of their home school and their own home,” Marshall said. “Students who participate can still fully be immersed in all phases of high school life (such as) athletics, clubs, band, prom, et cetera.”

    Marshall said most students take the maximum amount of allowed courses because it is too difficult to drive between their high schools and the Buffalo Run campus several times a day.

    “They can take fewer credits if they can work it into their schedule but that isn’t always feasible. The travel time to and from their home school is an issue with that option,” he said. 

    Marshall expects even more opportunities for high school students to obtain college credits as the district’s partnership with the JCTC Bullitt campus expands. The program started two years ago and has already quadrupled its number of participating students.

    “BCPS students have proven they are up to the challenge and it is our job to meet their needs,” he said.

Miller said discussions are underway to allow students to graduate with an associate’s degree, which requires at least 60 credit hours.  She said the Board of Education has provided cooperation and support thus far.

    “The Bullitt County Campus and the Board of Education is partnering closely to make that opportunity a reality in the near future. We are working to share resources and make plans that support that effort over the next few years,” Miller said.

    Miller and the Board members were obviously excited about the newest opportunities the JCTC Bullitt campus was offering the district’s juniors and seniors.

    “Before we are finished here there will be no excuses for not going to college,” Miller said.

    Any Bullitt County junior or senior attending one of the county’s public high schools should contact JCTC’s Bullitt Campus Coordinator Martha Swain at Martha.swain@kctcs.edu or 213-4151 for an application and information about the admissions process.