YVC Summer Running Start pilot program to support students’ college and career aspirations
Yakima, Wash. — High school students in the Yakima Valley looking ahead to college will have a new opportunity to accelerate their pathway to earning a degree thanks to a new Summer Running Start pilot program at Yakima Valley College.
YVC’s Running Start program is one of only three in the state selected to participate in the pilot, which for the first time extends Washington’s popular dual credit program into the summer. Running Start, which began in the early 1990s, enables high school students to take college courses and earn college and high-school credit at the same time. Running Start allows students to save thousands of dollars in tuition costs and speed up the time it takes to complete a degree and enter their desired profession.
Currently, Running Start students cannot access courses during summer quarter without being charged full tuition. House Bill 2864 changes that and provides funding for the Summer Running Start pilot.
“The pilot program’s primary goal is to evaluate interest in and barriers to expanding the Running Start program to include the summer term,” stated YVC Running Start Coordinator Hillary Emerson. “By offering Running Start in the summer quarter, students may be able to participate who would be unable to do so during the normal school year because of external barriers. We are especially hopeful this shift could increase dual credit access to underserved students. It also gives students more opportunity to earn extra credits and stay on course to graduate with their cohort.”
In its 25-year history, Running Start has grown into a nationally recognized program that has experienced significant enrollment growth. Emerson noted that Running Start can be particularly beneficial in supporting the college aspirations of low-income, first-generation and minority students.
Running Start students can take any course offered at YVC and other community colleges as long as they meet the prerequisites. Students can enroll full- or part-time, which gives them to opportunity to use the program to meet their individual needs. In addition to shortening the time needed to earn a degree, credits earned through Running Start can help students earn a second major, study abroad or complete a graduate degree.
YVC’s summer pilot program will be available starting in June 2021 to students in the Yakima, Granger, Highland, Mabton and Wapato school districts.
Granger High School Principal Mike Carlson said he’s excited about how the new pilot program will benefit local students.
“High school credit requirements can be inflexible in many cases,” Carlson said. “A student who is pushing themselves academically will benefit significantly by being able to take running start classes during the summer session. Each year, our counselor is looking to solve complicated credit situations for Running Start students. They are a challenge because the college terms do not match up perfectly with the high school. The flexibility of a summer session for Running Start will make the program more accessible to our students.”
Yakima School District Director of College and Career Readiness W.H. Sarett said the impact of the COVID pandemic make the expansion of Running Start into summer particularly timely.
“As we look for every opportunity to provide Yakima School District students with options to build credits and get back on the path to graduation, this summer Running Start pilot program provides one more valuable choice,” Sarett said. “Given the continuing challenges that remote learning holds, this could not have come at a better time!”
Overall, Running Start has proven successful in helping students in their pathway to a college degree. About 76% of Running Start students who graduated from high school during the 2014-15 academic year enrolled in a two- or four-year college after high school, compared to only about 55% of students who did not take Running Start courses according to data from Washington’s Education Research & Data Center.
At YVC, Emerson said the Running Start program has experienced a high growth rate, with fall quarter enrollment growing by 25% in each of the last five years. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted YVC has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Running Start students attending full-time (15+ credits) with the rate rising to 86% over the 64% of full-time students in fall 2019.
Additional college’s participating in the pilot program are Skagit Valley and South Puget Sound.