Running Start is a program in some states that allows high school juniors and seniors to take college courses for both high school and college credit. While Running Start seems attractive because students can earn college credits for free or at a reduced cost, there are some downsides to the program that students and parents should consider.
Less Support in College Courses
One potential downside of Running Start is that high school students taking college classes may not get as much support as they would in a high school classroom. College courses move at a faster pace and professors expect students to be independent learners. High school students used to having more guidance may struggle with the transition. Additionally, colleges do not provide special education services or learning accommodations that students may receive in high school.
Social and Emotional Immaturity
Another concern is that high school juniors and seniors may not be socially or emotionally ready for the college environment. College courses cover mature topics and expect students to act like adults. Younger high school students may feel overwhelmed navigating college social situations with older students. They will miss out on typical high school experiences like homecoming, prom, and graduation if taking all college classes.
Running Start also presents some logistical challenges. Students have to arrange their own transportation to get to the college campus. The college and high school schedules may conflict, so students need to coordinate with both schools. Families have to pay fees, textbooks, and other expenses associated with college courses. Managing both high school and college academic and extracurricular activities creates a heavy workload for students.
Lack of Credential at Graduation
Importantly, students who participate in Running Start are less likely to receive a high school diploma if they do not complete all state requirements. Instead, they only earn an associate degree from the community college. Not having a high school diploma could present issues for students applying to four-year colleges or the workforce after graduation.
Overall, while Running Start seems like an excellent opportunity to get free college credits, the program has some substantial drawbacks. Students and parents should carefully weigh the pros and cons to determine if it is the right fit. For many students, staying fully engaged at the high school may end up being the better choice.
Does Running Start guarantee admission to four-year colleges?
No, participation in Running Start does not guarantee admission to four-year colleges after earning an associate degree. Students still need to complete all application requirements for their desired colleges.
Can Running Start credits transfer to out-of-state colleges?
It depends on the college. Students should research individual college transfer policies to see if Running Start credits will transfer. Many colleges accept credits but some may not.
Can students take both high school and college classes?
Yes, students can take a mix of high school and college classes through Running Start. This allows them to still participate in high school activities. However, this reduces the number of tuition-free college credits they can earn.
Is transportation provided to community colleges?
Typically no, students and families need to arrange transportation to the local community college campus. Some colleges may have limited bus options from local high schools.
What are the costs?
Running Start tuition is free, but students pay fees, books, and other college expenses. High school fees may still apply too for any classes taken at the high school.
In conclusion, Running Start offers high school students a way to earn free college credits. However, the program has substantial disadvantages like lack of support, social issues, logistical challenges, and credentialing problems. Students interested in Running Start should understand these downsides to determine if it is the best option. For many students, focusing fully on high school may end up being a better choice long-term.