High School Students `Jump Start’ Higher Education

Jamie Littlefield

Enrollment in the Jump Start program has increased dramatically this semester, with more high school students enrolling in classes than ever before.

Started in 1996, the Jump Start program was conceived by Dr. Nancy Knight, vice president of College Services, to give students an opportunity to attend college classes while still in high school. “It’s a great opportunity for students to find out how college works,” said Hazel Ramos, the School Relations Outreach coordinator.

The program allows high school students to earn college credits while still in high school, and familiarizes them with the college environment. “It’s given me a literal jump start in college,” said student Maggie Bigelow. Bigelow, 16, says that the program has allowed her to find out what attending college is all about. “I will at least be experienced with the atmosphere,” she said.

GCC uses Jump Start students to boost enrollment in the afternoon classes. The school may count the Jump Start students as regularly enrolled students for funding purposes, and is reimbursed for their tuition fees. The program is also used to interest students in enrolling regularly after high school. “It’s kind of a recruitment tool to get them to come here,” said Knight.

Enrollment in Jump Start rose from 93 students in the Fall 1999 semester to 546 in Spring 2000. Jump Start counselor Charli Chambers estimates that there should be more than 600 this semester after enrollment is counted for the second session of nine-week classes. Chambers said that the new school calendar for 2001-2002 should draw more high school students to the program because the starting and ending dates will be closer to their high school schedules.

Most of these students attend Glendale High, Hoover High or other schools. The majority of the students are between the ages of 16 and 18. Although the program is designed for students at or above the high school junior level, students as young as 12 have attended classes.

In order for a student to enroll, he or she must have the signatures of a parent and high school counselor or principal. If the student is younger than 16, he must also obtain a signature from a member of the board of the school district, turn in an official transcript, and be interviewed by the dean of admissions and records. The admissions procedure helps to ensure that the students are able to handle the courses. “This program is designed for students who are doing well in their high school classes,” said Chambers.

The program is not a financial burden for most students. State law mandates that the tuition fees are waived for these students, and GCC provides a free parking pass to those who qualify. Jump Start students must pay the other college fees, but if they register for College Orientation or Career Planning the college will even provide the books for their classes.

Since students in Jump Start appear on roll sheets like any other students, teachers don’t know when students from the program are in their classes. But teachers have mixed feelings regarding the program. Some become frustrated when students do poorly or drop their classes. Others see it as a good opportunity for students. “I think for some it will be very effective,” said English Professor Susan Henry.

Chambers says that the social challenges have not been a problem for students. “I have never had a student who wasn’t able to meet the social challenges,” she said.

However, not all students come academically prepared. Chambers reports that most students who test place below the English 101 level, and that some classes have been difficult for students. She claims that the chance to withdraw from courses gives these students an opportunity to find out whether or not they have the ability to produce college-level work. Students soon learn that most college courses demand skills that are built upon those learned in high school.

“It’s definitely not for those that aren’t doing well in high school,” said Bigelow.

Time management has also been an issue for students in the Jump Start program. Chambers reports that many students are surprised when they learn how many hours of outside work college courses require Some students have dropped classes after finding themselves unable to balance high school, work, family life and college courses.

Despite this, Chambers contends that the average Jump Start GPA of 3.18 for spring 2000 is relatively high and that the majority of students are doing well. Chambers looks forward to the continuing increase of students in semesters to come. “For most students it’s a tremendous success story,” she said.