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Beginning this year, Pacific High School juniors will be offered the opportunity to earn a two-year tuition-free college degree to coincide with their high school diploma.

Seniors will be able to earn one year of college credits while still in high school.

For years, PHS students have been able to earn some college credits while in high school. The student then had to pay a fee to the college to receive college credit.

Now, by entering into the early college partnership between the Meramec Valley R-III School District and the St. Louis Community College (SLCC) at Wildwood, PHS graduates can walk earn their high school diploma and as associate degree at no cost for tuition, fees or books, according to Dr. Terri Parks, curriculum director.

“It’s a pilot program and we’re very excited to be able to offer this to our students,” Dr. Parks said.

Qualifying PHS juniors and seniors can take college courses on the SLCC campus, located at 2645 Generations Drive in Wildwood.

By being in the program two years, junior can earn a college associate degree by the time they graduate from high school, Dr. Parks said.

The school district will cover the cost of tuition, books and fees of college classes each semester, but students are responsible to provide their own transportation to and from the SLCC campus.

To take the college courses, a student must have a GPA of 2.5 and will need a recommendation from one district staff member. They also will need to complete an essay and sign an agreement to abide by the expectations and responsibilities of the early college partnership.

Students must maintain a passing grade, C or better, in all classes. If a student makes a D or F grade, they will be responsible to repay the district the full cost of the course.

Head Start

Graduates with two diplomas — high school and a college associate degree — will have a head start on college, said Tom Sauvage, PHS principal.

Another advantage of the partnership, Sauvage noted, is that participating students can return to PHS for extracurricular activities, including sports.

Speaking at the July 19 school board meeting, Parks said she sent an introductory letter to parents introducing the dual credit opportunities.

“The deadline is Aug. 4 so there isn’t much time,” she said. “But we didn’t want to wait another year.”

Applicants must take the ACCUPLACER test at the college, or can use their ACT test scores.

Students will have access to the Wildwood student resource center, library and computer labs.

Sauvage credited Quinn Flexsenhar, PHS assistant principal, with crafting the details of the program.

“Quinn did much of the legwork on this,” Sauvage said. “This is a great opportunity for our kids that we need to try.

“We accept their administration requirements and can’t see any reason for them not to take our kids,” he said. “It’s a collaboration.”

The new program offers two options. Students can start as seniors and earn college credits or start as juniors and graduate from high school with an associate degree.