Airport High students earn 18 college credits -- free -- through new Midlands Tech Early College Certificate Program

WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- What if high school students could earn 18 college credits -- the equivalent of roughly six courses -- without paying a dime of college tuition?

That’s exactly what 20 Airport High students have accomplished in the General College Studies Certificate program, a partnership launched last year through Airport and the Midlands Technical College Early College Program.

Dually enrolled high school students can take two college courses each semester, during the school day at Airport, and must complete at least 18 college credits to earn the certificate. The program can be completed in three semesters -- and best of all, course credits in the program are approved by all SC four-year colleges as transferable in most majors.

Seventeen of Airport’s certificate recipients plan to participate in Midlands Tech graduation ceremonies on Wednesday, May 9, at Colonial Life Arena.

“During my early years in education,  we never would have thought about kids getting certificates or degrees at the same time they were graduating high school,” said Lexington Two Superintendent Dr. William James. “But for our kids today who are going through this program, they’ve gained a huge advantage -- not only getting a significant jump-start on college work but saving on student loans, not working a job, not having mom and dad paying tuition.

“It’s a win for everyone -- our students and their families; Midlands Tech, which is getting a steady stream of high-achieving students; and our four-year South Carolina colleges and universities, who are getting students ready for the rigor of college coursework.”

The certificate program has an advantage over traditional AP programs, in that students enrolled in AP courses must take the AP exam and receive the test score required by the college they wish to attend for the credit to be awarded. In the certificate program, college credit may be earned without an AP exam.

Airport High senior Anna Marie Myers participated in the Early College Program, not only completing the certificate program but also an associate of art degree. That degree alone requires 64 college credits through 19-20 courses.

Myers, who participated in high school varsity soccer and cross country until sidelined by an injury, said being “able to complete my college degree quicker and save money” was a big incentive for her. “I wanted to take more challenging courses and get ahead.”

But it “was not easy going to college and going to high school at the same time,” Myers said -- especially after she had to have surgery following her injury.

“I developed good time management,” said Myers, who also has a job with Lexington Medical Center. She plans to become a registered nurse and either continue on to medical school or specialize in a field in nursing.

Midlands Tech named Myers an MTC Ambassador last fall. She represents the college in community and service events, and has even been in a commercial for the school.

In addition to Myers, these are the other Airport High students who will receive General College Studies Certificates through the Midlands Technical College Early College program. Several of the juniors are working toward associate of art degrees, planning to finish in 2019.

Juniors: Angel Anderson, Kayla Bouknight, Zachery Brewster, Weston Campbell, Makaylen (Seanna) Cook-Compton, Maddyson Frierson, Genesis Griffin, Cayleen Hall, Autumn Jackson, Leslianel Nieto Hernandez,  Destiny Payne, Saibriyya Pou, Shada’ Singleton

Seniors: Travis Campbell,  Hallie McGee, Amy Nguyen, Samuel Shannon, Matthew (Paxton) Brooks (graduated earlier this year and is now attending University of Tennessee

Myers said she would recommend the Early College Program to fellow high school students.

“It helped me mature by teaching me time management and responsibility,” she said. “I now have no doubt that I will be successful in college.”