Innovation Track will save R-7 high school students time and money

This article was produced in collaboration with Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Communications.

The Metropolitan Community College Board of Trustees will vote on a new program that will allow students to earn up to 30 hours of college credit at MCC and the University of Central Missouri at limited or no cost to families in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.

Known as the Innovation Track, the partnership between Lee’s Summit R-7, the MCC-Longview campus in Lee’s Summit, and UCM is designed for high school juniors and seniors.

The Lee’s Summit Board of Education approved the Innovation Track at its Dec. 14 meeting. Also approved was district funding for participation of Lee’s Summit R-7 students qualifying for the federal free/reduced lunch program (based on family income) in the Innovation Track as well as other dual-credit courses and International Baccalaureate courses/exams.

The new program is expected to go to the MCC Board of Trustees for approval in January. The UCM Board of Governors, MCC and Lee’s Summit R-7 will also be required to approve a joint memorandum of understanding.

The Lee’s Summit school board approved expenditures totaling $396,402 for the 2018-19 school year. This includes:

  • $167,107 for the Innovation Track including scholarships for tuition and textbook costs for qualifying students, a full-time R-7 staff member housed at the MCC-Longview campus and student transportation from home schools to MCC-Longview.
  • $200,595 to begin partially funding non-MCC dual credit classes for students qualifying for the scholarships.
  • An estimated $28,700 to begin partially funding International Baccalaureate exams for students qualifying for scholarships.

Sophomores and juniors at all three Lee’s Summit high schools will learn more about the program in early January 2018 . Enrollment for 2018-19 takes place Feb. 20-22.

The Innovation Track is designed to offer the following to students:

  • A jump start on higher-education degree completion, thanks to reduced cost and time to degree completion.
  • A quality education provided by partnered institutions.
  • Access to college and university resources including full student privileges at higher-education institutions.
  • A seamless transition to becoming a MCC or UCM full-time student.
  • Greater flexibility and a competitive advantage for R-7 students among their peers.

In addition to saving students money and time, the Innovation Track has a number of advantages for students and the partnering organizations. The credits earned by the local students will be guaranteed to transfer from not only MCC to UCM but to virtually any public post-secondary institution in Missouri. The program is also designed to attract students who are currently not enrolled in other Lee’s Summit R-7 dual credit options.

“The Innovation Track maximizes the partnership between Lee’s Summit R-7, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri to provide matriculation in educational institutions that jump starts the college, workforce and career opportunities for all students,” said Dr. Dennis L. Carpenter, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent.

“This is good for students seeking a two-year or four-year degree as well as students interested in workforce development. Ultimately, our entire community benefits from the district’s commitment to providing multiple pathways for students to leave us career and/or college ready. The Board’s votes in support of the Innovation Track and broadening students’ access to existing Lee’s Summit R-7 post-secondary credit opportunities is demonstrative of the district’s commitment to our collective, long-term viability.”

Bob White, R-7 Board of Education president, added: “We are grateful to be able to enhance our partnership with MCC and UCM, especially the in-kind donation of MCC facilities and student support systems as well as the reduced tuition. The Innovation Track provides a collective advantage to our students, families, our community and our higher-education partners. Students who participate in this option will have the opportunity to potentially complete internships at an earlier rate than college peers and leave college with less debt — all while fully participating in the high-school experience.”

During early December, about 2,200 Lee’s Summit R-7 high-school students who would be eligible for the program had the opportunity to participate in a survey to determine interest. Among the 621 students responding to the survey,  444 students (71.4 percent) indicated they would be interested in participating.

To qualify for the Innovation Track, students must have a high-school GPA of 2.5 and have scored 18 on the ACT college-entrance exam. Under the plan approved by the Board of Education, the school district will offer scholarships for the cost of tuition and textbooks for students who qualify.

Other students in the Innovation Track will pay for their tuition and books, with MCC working to extend the dual credit rate for this special on-campus program — a 50 percent reduction in cost. In addition, the R-7 School District will begin offering scholarships for qualifying students for a portion of the cost of non-MCC dual enrollment credit and a portion of the cost of International Baccalaureate exams.

“From training our community’s workforce to preparing students to earn degrees and certifications, MCC’s work today is at the heart of our community’s success tomorrow,” said Dr. Kimberly Beatty, MCC chancellor. “This partnership is yet another example of how working together can address educational access and equity challenges, by providing the entire community with access to higher education and higher earning potential. I am excited about our future.”

Dr. Kirk Nooks, MCC-Longview campus president, added: “With our MCC-Longview campus embedded in the Lee’s Summit community, I am proud of the educational ecosystem we have created and the strong allies we have forged with the business community.  We are honored to work alongside such strong and valuable community partners.”

Dr. Chuck Ambrose, UCM president, emphasized his university’s commitment to the program. “We look forward to taking our collaboration to a new level of significance with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and Metropolitan Community College on the Innovation Track initiative as a guided pathway to help high school students get a jump start on a college degree,” he said.

“UCM launched its first Innovation Track program with Warrensburg High School in 2016, and our goal has been to extend similar opportunities to surrounding school districts. The R-7 School District and MCC continue to be exceptional partners when it comes to innovative ways to make higher education more accessible and affordable. This allows the value of the Missouri Innovation Campus to extend to all students in Lee’s Summit.”

Students participating in the Innovation Track will take classes on the MCC-Longview campus with the district providing bus transportation from the high schools to the campus. Students will also have the opportunity to drive to Longview. Classes will be held in two sessions, with students attending the morning session or afternoon session on either Monday/Wednesday/ Friday or Tuesday/Thursday.

MCC instructors will teach the college courses. A Lee’s Summit R-7 teacher liaison will also be available to offer academic support. Lee’s Summit R-7 and MCC-Longview will collaborate to ensure academic support and engagement with students and families.

It is anticipated that as many as 200 Lee’s Summit R-7 students will participate in the Innovation track in 2018-19. Plans call for the enrollment capacity to increase in future years.

State statute has allowed local school districts to pay for students’ dual-credit college tuition since 1990.

Families interested in the program will be receiving complete information from their children’s high schools by early January.