LL-H board OKs early college

LAKE LINDEN – The Lake Linden-Hubbell Board of Education unanimously approved an early-college program Monday through Gogebic Community College that will allow students to earn associate’s degrees while still in high school.

Participating students will be able to earn up to 63 credits in the three-year program, which would begin in their junior year. They will choose from two courseloads, one with a math-science focus and one with English-social studies.

In their junior year, students will take two classes, expanding to three in their senior year. The next year, they would take one class through the school, which could be done online, and spend the rest of the day at Gogebic.

“It is something down the road where a student might be able to, in that fifth year, actually move down to Ironwood and take Gogebic classes on the regular campus and still be enrolled with us through the online class,” said guidance counselor Leon Sutherland.

Sutherland said the program would be substantially cheaper for parents. Gogebic charges about $8,820 for 63 credit hours, versus $18,075 at Northern Michigan University or $28,000 at Michigan Technological University. And much of that cost will be absorbed by the district through its foundation grant.

“Because of the rate that Gogebic charges for tuition, the money that we would be obligated to pay will essentially cover their tuition,” Sutherland said. “In many cases, it will cover some or all of the textbooks which we’re now obligated to provide, up to the foundation dollar amount.”

Sutherland said there would be no additional costs for the district. The 10 classes available during the first two years are already what dual-enrollment students can take. While the district is not obligated to provide transportation, it could be accommodated on buses the district already sends to Hancock.

Students not interested in the fifth year of the program would still be eligible to take 10 classes through dual enrollment.

Before their junior year, students are screened using the Compass test, which assesses their reading, writing and math ability, and an independent student survey, and a meeting with students and their parent or parents.

There will be a meeting for interested parents on April 22.

Sutherland and board members acknowledged tethering students to the high school in what would be their freshman year of college could be a hard sell.

“They all want to go somewhere else,” said Kathleen Carlton Johnson. “Financially, this is excellent, but that’s going to be your biggest pullback here.”

Superintendent Craig Sundblad said they anticipated difficulty gaining momentum for the first couple of years.

Sutherland said by the time his child, now a fourth-grader, is eligible for the program, he hopes to see it gain a foothold.

“I would like to think at some point, this could have a quarter of the class,” he said.