GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New numbers show efforts to encourage more Grand Rapids high school students to go to college are working.
Grand Rapids Community College saw a 31 percent increase in the number of Grand Rapids Public Schools graduates signing up for classes. According to GRCC, the number of students from GRPS rose from 116 in 2017 to 152 this year.
The numbers reflect a redoubled effort to do two things: convince GRPS students that a college education is within their reach and prepare them for an economy with plenty of jobs but not enough people to fill them.
India Whiteside, Teonicka Williams and Makenzee Powell are examples of success. They’re part of the Early/Middle College program, which allows students to enroll in GRCC classes while still in high school. They’ll graduate with the rest of their class, but an additional year of schooling will provide them with a tuition-free associate’s degree from GRCC and a shorter path to either trade school or a four-year degree.
For some students in the program, college was not always an option.
“I looked at into it, but I didn’t really think I would go to college,” said Whiteside, who now wants to study nursing after she completes her associate’s degree.
Williams wants to major in physiology and Powell said she wants to go to medical school.
Early/Middle College is only part of the joint effort between GRPS and GRCC that has helped boost the number of GRPS graduates headed to college or a skilled trade.
“Credit side is definitely up, for sure. Students are going into our skilled trades. That’s filling up as well. We’ve got plenty of opportunities on both sides,” GRCC Associate Dean David Selmon said.
He’s is in charge of working with GRPS students and their families not only to make sure they’re taking the right classes but also to provide the support they need to succeed.
“The way our students are performing, they are internalizing, OK, college is for them. They can be successful and they’re experiencing that while in high school,” Ottawa Hills High School Principal Kaushik Sarkar said.
Sarkar said there are still open slots in the Early/Middle College. He and other school leaders are trying to get the message out to students and parents to sign up.
“It’s a shame if all of those spots are not getting filled each year,” Sarkar said.
The Early/Middle College program is available to students in other area districts, as well.