Getting a head start

Courtesy Photo Taylor Snider, 19, of Bennington Township, just graduated from Perry High School and earned an associate’s degree from Baker College of Owosso, thanks to the Early Middle College program.

OWOSSO — When Taylor Snider graduated from Perry High School in the spring, she received a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in business administration from Baker College of Owosso at the same time.

Snider, 19, participated in an Early Middle College (EMC) program, a five-year high school program designed to allow a student to earn a high school diploma and college credit through an additional, fifth year of study — at no cost to the student or parent.

“It’s a great program,” Snider said. “I’ve made lifelong friendships. I didn’t just get an associate’s, I’m ahead by a couple of credits. Anyone can benefit from the program if they’re willing to learn and they actually want to get an associate’s degree.”

Baker College of Owosso has partnered with the Shiawassee Regional Education Service District (RESD) to offer the state-created program to high school students across the county. The RESD is also partnering with Lansing Community College and Mott Community College.

Currently, Baker has 103 local students in the EMC program, 19 of them entering their fifth year for the 2019-20 academic year.

“The biggest reason to consider the EMC while in high school is the opportunity for students to experience college, to get an idea of the pace and rigor of college academics — while they still have the support from their high school,” said Michael Konopacke, director of student affairs at Baker.

Snider participated in commencement exercises last year with her class at Perry High School, but in keeping with the EMC program, she was actually a credit shy of graduation requirements, allowing her technically to remain a high school student this year.

The state thus paid a per-pupil foundation allowance for Snider’s “fifth year” of high school. All of the courses she took were at Baker College. Perry High School paid a portion of the foundation allowance to Baker College, covering Snider’s tuition.

“I saved $12,000 in tuition,” Snider said. “In the fall, I’ll start working on my bachelor’s degree in business administration at Baker College, with a focus on marketing. But from now on, I’ll have to pay for my classes.”

Snider entered the EMC program in the winter of her sophomore year, having heard about it at informational sessions on post-secondary options hosted by Perry High School.

“I decided to sign up for the EMC program because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford college,” she said. “This was a way to get college credits without struggling to pay for it.”

The credits she earned at Baker College also gave her high school credits in tandem.

According to SRESD Assistant Superintendent Charmian Fletcher, more than 500 high school students in Shiawassee County participate in the EMC program, either at Baker College, Mott Community College or Lansing Community College.

The number has steadily increased since the program was initiated a few years ago, she said.

“I think it’s so successful because it’s a great opportunity to take that step to college and there’s no cost,” Fletcher said. “It’s one less thing for families to worry about.”

Snider, who is currently working as a manager at Hardee’s in Owosso, said the experience of going to college early boosted her self-confidence.

“I was really nervous as a high school sophomore, walking into a college class with kids who were a lot older than me,” she said. “It took a little bit of time, but then they opened up. After a couple of classes, I felt really comfortable. Now, I’m really close to them.”

Statewide, Baker College had 1,082 high school students either in the EMC or other dual credit programs in the academic year 2018-19.

Forty-eight Baker College students graduated with trade certificates or associate’s degrees, Konopacke said. They earned 9,480 credits and saved $2.845 million in tuition costs.

“To me, the big thing is that students are made aware of the program and that they take a look to see what it’s all about,” Konopacke said.

For details about the EMC program, students can ask their high school counselors. More information about Baker College’s program can be obtained by calling Konopacke at (989) 723-3353.

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