The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 25, 2014

Associate degree option, early childhood expansion on tap for Joplin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Beginning next year, students at Joplin High School will have the opportunity to earn an associate degree while in high school.

The agreement was signed Tuesday by Gov. Jay Nixon and representatives of the Joplin School District, Missouri Southern State University, Crowder College and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. It’s an expansion of a $1 million Innovation Campus grant that partnership received in 2012 to increase students’ opportunities to earn college credit in high school.

“By reducing the time and cost needed to earn a degree, the Joplin Innovation Campus is putting students on a fast track to success in fast-growing fields,” Nixon said. “This agreement to further strengthen an already robust partnership between Joplin higher education institutions, high schools and businesses will yield significant benefits for students and our economy for many years to come.”

Superintendent C.J. Huff said the associate degree option has been in the works for about six years. He urged students to take advantage of it.

“Getting that opportunity to explore college and what that college curriculum is like in a safe setting — there’s a lot of value in that,” he said.

As part of the expansion, the new Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center will offer more than 40 dual-credit courses next year. The Innovation Campus program already has drawn 29 Joplin students earning 188 credit hours last fall, the governor’s office said.

Chloe Bellamy is one of those students. She is enrolled in a dual-credit English course as well as an introductory medicine class at Franklin Tech.

She said she is grateful for the chance to take college-level classes as a high school junior at a reduced tuition rate, which is made possible by the Innovation Campus grant.

“This program really helps prepare you for college and the kind of work you should expect as you finish high school,” she said.

High school Principal Kerry Sachetta said the degree offering will be another way in which to prepare students for college or their careers after their graduation from high school.

“Our school, we’re kind of tagged as a college- and career-focused high school, and I think this fits what we’re talking about,” he said.

The associate degree option was formally approved Tuesday night by the Joplin Board of Education. Similar Innovation Campus programs exist in St. Joseph, Springfield, St. Louis, Jefferson City, St. Charles, Cape Girardeau and Rolla.

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