Beginning the 2012-13 school year, high school students in South St. Paul will be able to graduate from high school with an Associate's degree from Inver Hills Community College without ever stepping foot on a college campus or paying for a college class.
Inver Hills and South St. Paul Public Schools finalized the details of an agreement July 31 that allows students pursuing South St. Paul Secondary’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program to earn credits at both institutions simultaneously.
For South St. Paul students, this means they have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, an IB Diploma and an Associate of Arts degree by the end of their senior year of high school.
"With rising college tuition costs throughout the nation, I am pleased that our partnership will provide both academic and financial benefits to students who attend South St. Paul Public Schools," district Superintendent Dave Webb said.
Inver Hills expects to award associate degrees to 30 students each year through the partner program, which is available at no cost to the student.
An informational meeting for parents and students is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at South St. Paul Secondary.
"The school district reached out to us and expressed a desire for this type of a program for its students, and we believe we’re providing a strong community service in following through," said Doug Binsfeld, dean of humanities and fine arts at Inver Hills and coordinator of the college’s program. "We see the value in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, and we’re glad to be their partner of choice in this endeavor."
The South St. Paul district has a long-standing reputation offering IB programs, having been the first district in the state to offer the organization’s full K-12 programming.
At the high school level, the Diploma Program is a challenging course of studies that requires students to take exams at the end of each course that are externally assessed by IB examiners from around the world.
In addition to testing in each of six study areas—language, individuals and societies, mathematics and computer science, the arts, experimental sciences and second language—IB Diploma candidates must take a Theory of Knowledge course, write a 4,000-word research essay and complete a community service program.
Though the courses are taught by high school teachers with IB training, Inver Hills faculty will supervise the curriculum, evaluating each course to ensure it meets college standards.
"South St. Paul Secondary is so proud to partner with Inver Hills to provide our students with this unprecedented opportunity," Principal H. Butch Moening said.
In addition to this program, Inver Hills is working to prepare high school students in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights for college through its Leading and Developing Readiness (LADR) program, which targets students in the "academic middle" who earn average grades.
The college also offers concurrent enrollment options and PSEO.