Lindsey Walker, a senior at Renaissance High School in the Meridian School District, will graduate twice this month. She will get a high school degree from Renaissance and an associate of arts degree from Idaho State University.
When she enrolls in Brigham Young University to study biotechnology and genetics this fall, she'll enter as a junior. She'll have completed English, economics, social sciences and other courses.
"All I have to do is focus on biology, chemistry and stuff," she said.
Walker and eight of her fellow graduates charted the same path at Renaissance, beginning in their junior year when they loaded up on dual-credit courses.
"It is hard and you have to manage your time wisely," Walker said.
But there is an economic payoff.
Walker and her classmates got their two years of college completed at a fraction of the cost of attending a community college or four-year university.
Students must have 64 credits for the associate degree. They get them for $65 per credit hour at Renaissance, less than half the cost of College of Western Idaho and about one-fourth the cost of Boise State University.
"I got to stay at home and I didn't have to pay for most of my books," Walker said. "(My parents) are very happy and very proud."
Renaissance, which shares the same complex with ISU's Meridian campus, is the only school in the Meridian District to make the associate degree attainable by the time students graduate from high school, Principal Penny Andrew said.
Renaissance's program comes as the state is pushing for more students to take dual-credit classes to get a leg up on post-high school education.
Renaissance, a magnet high school that draws students from around the district, began developing the program in 2009, Andrew said. School officials brought together BSU, Northwest Nazarene University, CWI and ISU to amp up Renaissance's classes to meet college expectations.
All but two of the courses are taught at Renaissance, located at 1307 E. Central Drive. Students go to CWI to get one college-level English course and a course in physical sciences.
A key element in making the program work is hiring, Andrew said. Most of the teachers in the dual-credit program have master's degrees, which means the school pays more for salaries than if it hired teachers with bachelor's degrees.
To learn more about Renaissance's process, email Andrew.Penny@meridianschools.org.
@IDS_BillRobertsBill Roberts: 377-6408