Recently, students have been misinformed about the future of Running Start. Despite its rapid development and increase of 200 students at the Puyallup campus since last year, the question has arisen if it will remain a part of Pierce’s campus.
Not only is Running Start expanding and will remain at Pierce College, has the government welcomed its benefits and funding.
“Funding Running Start is a great advantage and use of taxpayer dollars because state financial aid and federal financial aid does not have to pay for four years of someone’s education, but rather two years of their college education,” Jayna Petterson, Running Start adviser at Pierce College said.
The program began in the early 90s with legislature making it a part of the “Learning by Choice” law that was designed to expand educational options for students.
The Washington State program was kicked off with a two-year pilot program that involved five different community colleges.
“The pilot program involved 358 students from 37 high schools…it began statewide in 1992-93, when approximately 3,350 students enrolled in community and technical colleges,” Valerie Frey, Running Start Manager said.
In 1994, the program expanded to include Washington State, Eastern, and Central University.
Since its foundation, Running Start has exploded in popularity shown in the 2012-13 data from the Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction, reporting 427 schools nationwide to have students enrolled in Running Start, making that 17, 527 individual participants.
“It’s very normal now for students to come to college and see some of their former classmates in school rather than it being a complete pullout program or an alternative school type program where there is a stigma attached to it,” Patterson said.
The Running Start program at Pierce College prides itself in the relationships it has with the 34 different high schools. Much of the student’s time is spent at the college, as a Running Start student and it’s often difficult to keep in contact with the high school counselors.
Each fall and spring Pierce hosts a luncheon for the high school counselors, to bring them up to speed on any changes and demonstrate how the students are progressing.
“Our high school counselors are very supportive of the program because they see how much it benefits their students,” Petterson said.
With many of the Running Start students being high level students, there is also somewhat of a resistance from some high school faculty members.
“A lot of school districts are hesitant to give up the cream of the crop students and see them transition out of their high schools and come here full time to Pierce College,” Petterson said.
Much of the resistance is minor, however, because if the benefits they continue seeing in their students as a result of Running Start. Twenty-five percent of the student body at Pierce are Running Start students.
Because of its rapid popularity, the Running Start program directors are seeking further steps to educate students about it and help them in their questions.
“We are creating video tutorials and a youtube channel to really educate students and make it available to them 24/7, so not only students have access to them but the parents as well,” Petterson said.
They’re also creating a system for students taking classes’ online classes so they can intervene early in the quarter if they are struggling.
“I think we continue to work with communication and responsiveness of our students, helping them acclimate quickly to a more aggressive pace,” Petterson said. “Taking that role on as an adult student, advocating for themselves, communicating for themselves.”
Running Start is not a program the state is seeking to rid of anytime soon. It continues to receive government support, user support and continues to rapidly expand.
“We’re pretty fortunate to have this program in Washington State,” Frey said.
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