Saint Louis Community College Meramec is providing an opportunity for juniors and seniors to earn an associates degree upon graduation.
Students are contacted in their sophomore year with the opportunity to take courses at Meramec and Webster to earn college credits.
About five students are chosen each year to begin taking courses starting their junior year at STLCC Meramec and are provided with scholarships including five full-time semesters, fees and books.
“For me, it was a lot about the money,” Arctic Grosvenor, Webster junior and Meramec student, said about why he wanted to do the program. “Well, it’s free, it was like a full scholarship, so I was like ‘well that’s why I want to do it, so I don’t have student debt.’”
Saving money on college and completing college credit are reasons for choosing the program.
“I saw it as a good opportunity to save money on college, so I wouldn’t be paying so much to go to a four-year,” Morgan Ward, Webster senior and Meramec student, said. “It’s a good opportunity to get those credits ahead of time.”
“I have personally focused on knocking classes out of the way that I didn’t want to do later on, and this kind of gave me that opportunity,” Mahan said. “It basically allows you to get a jump/head start on college in general.”
The program includes an opportunity for students to earn an associate’s degree upon high school graduation.
“As long as everything goes well, I am projected to get it (the degree),” Ward said.
“We were told about the associates degree, and it was really hyped up as if that was the end goal, but once you actually start the program, you realize that’s not the main goal,” Mahan said. “You can also work towards whatever fits you best and taking advantage of the opportunity.”
Although the opportunity is open to take classes at both schools, students most classes at Meramec.
“I haven’t stepped in (the high school) since we all left the school for COVID,” Seneca Mahan, Webster senior and Meramec student, said. “You don’t really feel like you’re in high school at that point anymore, because you don’t have a reason to step into the building.”
“I still take band and Spanish here, because you can take electives there, but it’s for college credit, so you don’t want to take a band class that is only going to give you one credit when you could take one that’s like three, and plus, marching band is pretty cool.” Grosvenor said about balancing classes.
“I’m not going to be a high school student technically anymore, but I am still going to do cheer, so I’ll be here for games and practices,” Jada Swearengen, sophomore who was recently accepted for next year’s early college program, said.
With a majority of time spent outside of the high school, students say the program impedes on the high school experience, often feeling disconnected from Webster.
“You’re just very disconnected,” Mahan said. “It makes it really hard to know when things are happening, most of the time I have to find out through my friends.”
The program offers students freedom and a flexible schedule.
“You get a lot of free time basically, and you also get a lot of downtime. The only difference is you have to really make sure you’re focusing on studying and getting the assignments turned in, but there’s really just a lot of freedom in general and a lot of opportunity to pick what you want to do,” Mahan said.
“The schedule is a lot more freeform, so I can choose whatever classes I want, as long as it fits my degree,” Ward said.
“Learning and understanding how it is to be independent and not really have someone over you I think is the thing that I’m looking forward to the most,” Swearengen said.
Students doing the program are often unfamiliar with it prior to receiving the application email.
“I didn’t even know it was a program until I got an email about it, and I felt kind of rushed making the decision,” Ward said.
“I had no idea about its existence beforehand,” Mahan said.
About informing future classes of the program’s existence, students offer multiple solutions.
“I would say they should definitely pull down the sophomore classes and tell them ‘this is what we’re offering,’” Sweargen said.
“I think there could be more advertisement of it, as in when they’re selecting new coursework,” Ward said. “Just more communication about it.”
Overall, the program provides students with college credit, saving money, and a change from the high school environment.
“I was wanting some change, and I was wanting to get out of the high school environment, and that’s why I did it, along with the saving money, and along with the challenge,” Ward said.
This will be Luca Giordano’s first year on ECHO Staff, but he also made several contributions while taking journalism class his junior year.