Youth Options program gives high school students a jumpstart into higher ed

By Erin Eagan

Did you know that your children can begin working toward a college degree or technical certificate while still in high school?

It’s true. High school juniors and seniors who meet certain requirements can take courses not available at their high school at any of the state’s technical colleges through Wisconsin’s Youth Options Program. The Youth Options program is geared toward students who are considering a technical career, hoping to begin college early or are preparing to enter the workforce immediately after high school graduation. 

For example, “If you're a senior in high school and you know that you're going to go on for a nursing program, the best start for you would be to take the Certified Nursing Assistant class as a Youth Options student,” says Jenny Wagner, the K-12 Relations Associate from Moraine Park Technical College.

It’s the perfect way to introduce them to the world of higher education where they can learn more about a field or career of interest — at no cost to them. Youth Options classes are tuition-free. If your local school board determines a college course is eligible for high school credit and it is not comparable to any course offered by the school district, the school district will pay for the course.

Students earn college credit and high school credit simultaneously, reducing the total time and cost to degree. Upon high school graduation, students can transfer their Youth Options credits to any of the Wisconsin technical colleges.

In his 2017 State of the State address, Gov. Walker praised these types of programs that help in any way to cut down college costs. “[The state’s] initiatives are helping many students get through college sooner and into the workforce,” says Walker. “Earning college credits in high school also helps reduce the cost of higher education.”

In regards to Youth Options, Wagner adds, “A student could earn up to one semester of college credits while they're still in high school, which can save thousands of dollars for a student.” 

Encourage your high school student to meet with their guidance counselor to see if they are eligible for the Youth Options program and begin the application process. Or they can contact a local technical college Youth Options representative to discuss the program further. The application deadline for Youth Options is March 1 for enrollment in the Fall 2017 semester and October 1 for enrollment in the Spring 2017 semester.

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