Highland News Leader

“Running Start” program will help Highland High School students get started early with college

A new deal between the Highland School District and Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) is meant to help Highland High School students get a off the blocks faster with their college education.

“Running Start” is a dual credit program for qualified high school sophomores to attend SWIC for their junior and senior years. It is a program that will allow students to earn their high school diploma and an associate of arts or associate of science degree at the same time.

“The program is designed for a student who will be going for a four-year degree when they leave SWIC,” said Valerie Thaxton, director of Running Start and dual credit development at SWIC. “The day they graduate from high school, they also earn a two-year transfer degree (from SWIC).”

Credits will transfer to all Illinois state schools, as well as several other universities, but not all.

Highland High School Principal Dr. Karen Gauen said she expected about five HHS students may participate in the program next year.

“That’s where we are ballparking it,” Gauen said.

“But we don’t anticipate turning any kids away,” said Superintendent Mike Sutton.

While the minimum requirements for participation are established by SWIC, Highland High School has additional requirements for students interested in the program.


The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the program.

Q: The program fee is $3,325 for the 2016-17 school year. Who is responsible for this fee?

A: Students will be responsible for the program fee. The fee is initially paid by the Highland School District to SWIC on behalf of the student. The student then must repay the district. Books are an additional cost. There is no financial aid available.

Q: When will high school students be allowed on the high school campus each day?

A: SWIC-Running Start students will be able to participate in first/second period band/chorus. At the end of these periods, Running Start students should not be on the HHS campus. Students are allowed back at the high school for interscholastic athletics and all after school activities.

Q: Will students be allowed an opportunity to take one class to qualify for the program?

A: All students who take the COMPASS assessment at SWIC are given the opportunity to re-test once, if their scores fall below college level (math and English). Students whose scores fall below college level after the re-test will not be able to take a “developmental” class in the summer in order to qualify at the college level.

Q: What GPA must a HHS student have to be eligible for the program?

A: HHS students must have a GPA of a 4.2 out of a 5.0 weighted or unweighted scale on their HHS transcript.

Q: Will the high school consider SWIC classes to be honors classes?

A: No, SWIC classes will not be considered honors classes on the Highland High School transcript. Grades earned at SWIC will be transferred using the traditional/simple GPA.

Q: What will be the school policy on W grades received at SWIC?

A: If students drop a class at SWIC, the W is not included in the college or HHS GPA, but it will appear on the HHS transcript.

Q: What will be the school policy on F grades received at SWIC?

A: If a student receives an F for a SWIC course, the F is calculated into the HHS GPA. Likewise, if the class is repeated, the subsequent grade will also be calculated into the HHS GPA.

Q: What will be the policy when students need to repeat a class at SWIC?

A: student may be required to repeat a class if they earn a D and need a C or better to take the subsequent class. The original class grade will be calculated into the HHS GPA.

Q: What will be the requirement for athletic eligibility?

A: Student-athletes must pass five classes per week (if taking six classes, they can fail one and remain eligible. They must pass five classes at end of the semester to be eligible the following semester.

Q: What campus will we require the students attend?

A: Students from HHS will attend the Belleville Campus.

Q: Will the high school provide for a free/reduced lunch, and if so, how?

A: Highland High School will provide a sack lunch for free/reduced students if the students go by HHS to pick it up.