Students in the Independence School District will have the ability to schedule a streamlined college career beginning as early as sophomore year, and plan on earning a bachelor’s degree only three years after high school graduation.

The district this week announced a partnership with the University of Kansas’ “Degree in 3” program alongside Metropolitan Community College, which has been participating for a year now according to Chancellor Kimberly Beatty.

“I have a feeling it is going well,” she said, explaining that after a first year of participation, the data on the program’s success is currently being collected.

The program tells students what classes they need to take in the second half of their high school career, as well as at MCC and KU if they know what major they want to pursue. Students can take classes knowing every credit will transfer and culminate in a degree. Getting a start on their degree in high school allows them to earn it in three years instead of the traditional four.

According to Beatty, MCC sees about 17,000 students each fall, and approximately 70 percent of the students who enroll at the community college do so with the intent of furthering their education after leaving. She said this number is about the national average for community colleges.

The benefit of participating in KU’s program, according to Beatty, is that students can begin their college career at MCC already knowing what classes they need to take during their time there.

“It is a streamlined map for a student to take their courses in high school, MCC and then at KU,” she explained, describing it as a collaboration tool as well as a planning tool. While students have been able to take college credit courses in high school before, the collaboration with KU is the valuable tool, one the community college hasn’t had with any other universities up to this point, according to Beatty.

Dale Herl, superintendent of the Independence School District, said the program is as simple as the students signing up during their yearly class registration, when they select classes. Herl said the program “streamlines” the courses they take.

According to Herl, all of the district’s dual-credit classes, the ones that qualify for high school and college credit at the same time, already met MCC and KU standards, and no new courses needed to be added. With the requirements already in place, the district only needed to formalize the relationship between educational institutions.

According to the district, 719 dual-credit courses were taken in the 2018-19 school year.

Both Beatty and Herl agreed the program enables students to save a significant amount of money on their college careers, as students can also use their A-Plus hours to fund two years of free tuition at MCC. Combined with the head start they receive, this saves a significant amount of dollars.