April 19, 2018 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Emely Javier was a Wyoming High School student in 2012, looking to be the first in her family to attend college.
She enrolled in Grand Rapids Community College’s first Early/Middle College program, a partnership that allows students to take college courses while in high school, making a degree more affordable and accessible.
Javier earned her associate degree from GRCC and transferred to Central Michigan University, where she graduates this spring with a bachelor's degree in communications disorders. She starts work on a master’s degree in the fall.
“Instead of being in college for six years, I'm getting both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in four years -- all because of the credits I earned with the Early/Middle College,” she said. “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and this program made it possible. I'd recommend it, 100 percent.”
GRCC launched the program in 2012 in Wyoming, and 20 students from that district will receive an Associate of Arts this spring. Cedars Springs will see its first group of 17 graduates. Ottawa Hills High School students are in their first year of the program.
On the Lakeshore, seven students will receive industrial maintenance certificates through a program that GRCC started last year with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and Herman Miller. This partnership allowed these students to participate in internships with Herman Miller, Trans-Matic and JR Automation.
Early/Middle College students are thriving through the challenges of their high school and college coursework, said Dan Clark, GRCC's dean of Academic Outreach.
"We had two students in Cedar Springs' Early/Middle College program who were recognized at GRCC's Delta Pi Alpha banquet," he said. "They earned a perfect 4.0 GPA -- and were among a group of 13 GRCC students recognized for this accomplishment."
Kaitlin Ringler, who is in Cedar Springs' Early/Middle College program, will graduate with her associate degree this spring.
"My goals when I was a sophomore and decided to be a part of the program was to hopefully figure out what degree path I wanted to travel down," she said. "I figured being able to have free college for two years would help me understand what I want to further my education in."
Psychology professor Kate Byerwalter was a favorite instructor, and Ringler, who starts at Michigan State University this fall, hopes to be a psychiatrist.
Being in an Early/Middle College program saves a student $12,000 to $14,000 in tuition, fees and textbook costs for an associate degree, Clark said. When compared to students who attend a four-year institution right after high school, those savings rise to $32,000 to $64,000 or more, he said.
Wyoming Superintendent Thomas Reeder said the program has been effective for his students, offering them more options and, for many, putting a college degree in reach.
“The Early/Middle College program is an outstanding opportunity for students to earn college credit and, for some students, earn an associate degree,” Reeder said. “Many of the students enrolled are the first in their families to attend college. GRCC has been a great partner for us, and we continue to look for ways together to help our students be successful after high school.”
Students from the Early/Middle College programs will take part in GRCC's commencement, which starts at 7 p.m. April 27 in Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE.
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.