The classrooms at East Central College are full this summer, thanks in part to Three for Free — an initiative giving area high school students a chance to take a tuition-free summer course.

“Students were only responsible for course fees and textbooks,” said Heath Martin, vice president of student development. “We felt this was a great way for area students to get a feel for what East Central College has to offer.”

Classes started June 3, and the experience is already going well for Jadyn Chirico. The St. James High School student is taking a general psychology course this summer through the Three for Free initiative.

“The class work is very interesting,” she said. “I’ve already learned a lot more than I knew before. I’m highly interested in psychology, but taking a class at my high school isn’t something I am able to do. Getting to learn about the subject through East Central College is a great opportunity.”

Chirico is one of 99 students enrolled in tuition-free courses this summer at ECC in Union and Rolla.

“From Borgia to Owensville to Vienna, we have students from more than 20 high schools enrolled in Three for Free this summer, as well as several home-schooled students,” said Megen Strubberg, director of early college programs.

Angela Kuhlmann is one of nine Union High School students who decided to enroll this summer. When she heard about the Three for Free initiative, she jumped on the opportunity.

“I thought it was a great chance for me to get college credit while still in high school,” she said. “If it wasn’t offered tuition-free, I’m not sure I would have taken a college class this summer.”

Kuhlmann plans to attend ECC after graduation to take her general education requirements. Then she plans to transfer to a university to study pre-law.

Along with the hard work of the ECC Student Services Department, the Three for Free program helped boost summer enrollment in a big way.

“Enrollment for the summer semester is up more than 31 percent over last year,” said Dr. Jon Bauer, president. “The number of credit hours those students are taking is up nearly 26 percent. We are excited to have so many students taking advantage of our summer offerings.”

Alisa Glore, Bourbon High School student, is taking a communications course through the Three for Free initiative.

“I wanted to get a college class out of the way while I could,” she said. “I probably would have taken the class eventually, but getting the class tuition-free was a big help.”

Glore plans to attend ECC after high school to pursue a degree in nursing.

St. Clair High School student Emma Hinson is taking general sociology online through ECC.

“I want to get my prerequisites out of the way as fast as I can,” she said. “I don’t think I would have taken a summer class if Three for Free wouldn’t have been offered.”

The Three for Free Initiative allows the classes of 2020 and 2021 to take a summer course tuition-free at ECC.

Students are responsible for general fees, special course fees and textbooks. Students with a 3.0 cumulative high school grade-point average are eligible to participate.

Students are allowed to take any course tuition-free, regardless of the number of the credit hours.

Of the 99 students using the initiative, 12 students are enrolled in more than one class. Only the first class is free.

Martin said they had an enrollment goal of 30-50 students.