Thursday, March 23, 2023

Proposal would expand Running Start to sophomores

by Alexandria Osborne/Washington State Journal
| February 13, 2023 1:20 AM

OLYMPIA — A bill being considered by the Washington State Legislature would expand the state’s Running Start Program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to earn college level credits, to include sophomores.

“It’s a heavy lift when you’re a junior and senior to try to accomplish your two-year degree in those two years,” said Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-Wenatchee. “A little running start to Running Start might be good to actually accomplish some of the two-year attainment that we’re seeking in the state.”

Running Start allows high school students to earn credits at community colleges, technical colleges, and certain four-year colleges and universities while still in high school. Students do not pay tuition but are responsible for textbook fees and costs of other materials, as well as transportation to and from school. The institutions are reimbursed from local school districts for the cost of tuition per student.

Senate Bill 5670, sponsored by Hawkins, will allow high school sophomores to enroll in Running Start, but the majority of time in class for that age group would be spent online.

Roz Thompson, Association of Washington School Principals government relations & advocacy director, said school officials want to be flexible and have options for students, and they want students to push themselves with advanced classes.

But, she said, there are concerns about how student development is affected when students are at a critical point in their education. Sophomores, just 15 years old, would be removed from their regular in-person settings with their peers and trained adults.

Hawkins said he understands those concerns but added there are some 10th graders in the K-12 system who need or want to be academically challenged and should have access to the program.

“I just think it would be an excellent opportunity for some 10th graders,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity with everything that transpired during COVID, with all of our higher education institutions, a lot of them doing the online learning now, I think there might be an opportunity to get the 10th graders started a little bit with Running Start.”

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