Early college reduces student debt, burden on districts

In Ohio, one way students can save money is through the College Credit Plus program.

College Credit Plus is helping students pay for college.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Everyone knows college is expensive, and student loan debt is a multi-billion dollar program in the United States. There are programs that can help college-bound high school students get a head start, but even those come with a price tag.

In Ohio, one way students can save money is through the College Credit Plus program (CCP). It lets high school students take college courses for free, cutting the time and money they spend at college.

Sumeera Murad has big plans. She wants to be a surgeon and knows her schooling with take a long time, so she’s getting a head start with the CCP program. At just 15, she’s starting her second year of college at Youngstown State University – while still in high school.

“Since I get to take my courses early, It really helps me out because I got a long time in school. So, I’ll be younger when I’m doing it – save some time, I guess,” Murad said.

And that’s not the only draw. The CCP program is also helping keep Murad’s debt down.

“It really helps out because my mom is a police officer and my dad is a truck driver. It helps us out financially,” Murad said.

Parents and students don’t pay for the CCP course, those costs are covered by the school district.

Scott Weingart is the interim superintendent at West Branch Local Schools. He’s been in discussion with state education leaders about reworking the way College Credit Plus is funded. Weingart says it simply costs too much, but he doesn’t discourage students from enrolling.

“It has come to the point at West Branch where it is about an $80,000 per year bill,” Weingart said.

Weingart says he encourages students and parents to look carefully at the program and if the plan works for a particular student then he advises then to take advantage of it.

Karla Krodel runs the CCP program at YSU. She says the funding problem for College Credit Plus is a statewide issue.

“They are doing a good job promoting the program because they always do what is best for the students and yet, it is going to have a negative impact on their budget,” Krodel said. “The difficulty with the funding is that there isn’t any funding. There is no new funding. On both the high school’s side and the college’s side, we are doing a lot of extra work, a lot of extra programming, and that money is coming directly out of the school’s budget.”

There are different solutions being tossed around. One reported in the Columbus Dispatch involves student’s families footing the bill based on their income.

Krodel’s not sure that’s the solution. She likes the fact the students don’t have to pay for the CCP courses.

The CCP funding issue is being considered by lawmakers in Columbus. Weingart submitted a written statement about the issue when education leaders were hearing testimony. He said he plans to stay involved in the discussion.

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