GRCC Class of 2016 includes first group of Wyoming Middle College students



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

April 26, 2016 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College's Class of 2016 includes the first students in its Middle College program.

This partnership with Wyoming High School allows students to start courses toward an associate degree in 10th grade. While the Wyoming partnership was the region's first in 2012, GRCC has since teamed up with the Cedar Springs, Ottawa Area Intermediate and Grand Rapids school districts on middle college programs.

Dan Clark, GRCC's dean of academic outreach, said the middle college program's success has exceeded expectations, with 58 percent of the initial group of middle college students eligible to go through commencement this spring. Of the 29 students eligible for commencement, 25 have indicated plans to continue at a four-year college or university, he said.

Students may begin the middle college programs their sophomore year and complete the program after an extended year of classes beyond high school. They are dual-enrolled in high school and college courses during that time, with their college tuition and semester fees paid by the school district as part of its per-pupil state funding.

Anne Harig, a Wyoming High School counselor, says she recommends the program to students with a GPA of 2.5 or higher and above grade-level reading scores on at least one standardized test.

"I feel this program can benefit any student who is considering college and is willing to work hard," she said. "At an early age, they have an opportunity to see if they can be a success at the college level."

She said the program also saves families money.

"One young lady, because of her citizenship status, cannot receive (financial) aid," Harig said. "She is now going to earn an Associate of Arts degree at no cost to her and fulfill a lifetime goal of being a college grad.

"One middle-class father whose son is about to earn his associate just did the FAFSA and received no aid. He said he is so thankful to the program and had no idea how much money it would save him."
Ron Ralya, a retired GRCC faculty member who serves as an adviser to the middle college students, says the program is demanding -- and not just academically.

"We are asking students to make some decisions about their long-term plans, sooner than that of their classmates taking the traditional road to college, to help them take full advantage of this opportunity," he said.

"It is really challenging to be trying to get a college credential and finish high school at the same time. Beyond taking and studying for both sets of classes, there are two sets of rules. Many students have jobs, and some of them work a tremendous amount of hours. Add family commitments and extracurricular activities, and there are a lot of demands on their time."

Approximately 173 students are part of Wyoming's middle college program this year. Cedar Springs launched its middle college at the beginning of the current school year. The OAISD, in partnership with Herman Miller, will began an early college Industrial Maintenance Certificate program in fall 2016. The GRPS program is scheduled to launch in fall 2017.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 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.