Running Start students to pay

Initiated by the legislature in 1990, Running Start is a program intended to provide public high school students with the option to attend college while still in high school. Students can earn high school and college/university credits at the same time.

Students in grades 11 and 12 were allowed to participate in Running Start at public expense, subject only to minimal eligibility and procedural requirements.

However, changes that affected every high school and college in Washington took place this summer.

“The legislature looked for savings to close a $5 million budget gap, and they turned over every stone,” said Mike Hubert, director of guidance and counseling with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

When Running Start began in 1990, Hubert said it was wide open — a student could be full time at high school and college if they wanted to be.

But times have changed, he said.

The rules have changed whereby students may not attend high school and college classes at public expense if their FTE (full-time equivalence) exceeds 1.20.

Students can no longer attend high school and college full time at no cost. Students that exceed the 1.20 FTE, which is the sum of classes at both their high school and college, will be charged tuition at the college for the credits that exceed the 1.20 FTE limitation. FTE is based on instructional minutes, Hubert said. Three hundred daily minutes or 1,500 weekly minutes equal 1.00 FTE.

College FTE is based on enrolled credits; 15 credits equal 1.00 FTE. There is no difference in credit calculation between the quarter and semester systems since Running Start enrollment is reported monthly.

There are some exceptions. Running Start students enrolled in college vocational programs or at a Skills Center may exceed the 15-credit enrollment.

Students enrolled at the high school, at a Skills Center, and in Running Start can be claimed for up to a combined 1.80 FTE. The FTE limitation for students enrolled at both a Skills Center and high school remains at 1.60 FTE.

For regular high school students, five of six high school classes are paid for by the state, and the other class is usually funded by local levies, Hubert said. But now, for example, if a student is taking a five-credit college course instead of a three-credit course, they must pay the difference.

Tuition for five credits for a resident at Bellevue College is $1,096; three credits is $658, so the difference that a student exceeding the 1.2 FTE would pay is $439.

Jennifer Wright, the executive director of learning and technology services for the Mercer Island School District, said last spring 28 FTE students from Mercer Island High School participated in Running Start. It’s too soon to know how many students are participating this fall since the colleges all start at different times, she said.

High school students can take classes at the participating institution in person or online.

The entire college catalog is available to Running Start students, assuming that they have met any prerequisites that the college requires for the class.

In most cases, Washington community and technical college credits are transferable to out-of-state colleges or universities.

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