© 2023 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Columbia High School Students Can Earn Free Associate's Degree

Meiying Wu
"High School 2.0" would allow high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn their associate's degree for free.

To read more about High School 2.0, visit our media partner the Columbia Missourian.


Host: Welcome to Exam on KBIA where we talk all education around Missouri. I'm Kassidy Arena. Columbia Public Schools is teaming up with Moberly Area Community College or MACC to help students earn their associate’s degree while still in high school. The proposed plan is set to launch in fall of 2020. The name of the program is still under discussion, but tentatively it’s known as High School 2.0. The goal is for high school students to graduate with their associate’s degree for free. Peter Stiepleman is the superintendent of Columbia Public Schools. The idea for high school students to finish two years of college while still in high school came to him after visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan where the high school there was doing the same thing.

STIEPLEMAN1 RT :14 “Moberly Area Community College.”

“This got our community really excited. In fact, that was like the biggest takeaway from that trip was, Peter, we need that in Columbia and who better to partner with than my colleague here, Jeff Lashley from MACC which you now know as Moberly Area Community College.”

Lashley is the president of MACC. He’s also an alumnus. He says something like High School 2.0 would have helped him feel more comfortable about the transition into college.

LASHLEY1 RT :15 “cohort to model them.”

“I didn't go to MACC with a grand plan. I finished high school and knew I was going to college and I lived in Moberly, and so going to MACC made sense for me. But I was a little bit nervous about it. I'm sure these students are going to feel, you know, like they're supposed to be there because they're part of the cohort to model them.”

The program is open to students who have a GPA higher than 2.75, take the ACT or Acu-placer, which is a pre-ACT test, and they have good attendance. When it comes to expenses, including transportation, tuition and mental health care for the high school students in a college environment, Stiepleman says they plan to help with a shuttle to and from MACC as well as extra counselors for the students.

ARENA1 RT :15 “those numbers add up?”

“So, forgive me for not knowing much about finances, but how will it work? You mentioned a little bit about how we'll just take this state funding, but you talked about buses and then also covering the tuition costs. Where do all of those numbers add up?”

STIEPLEMAN2 RT :10 “able to attend college.”

“So as a school district, we say on average probably about $12,000 per student. We're going to be spending significantly less than that for students to be able to attend college.”


LASHLEY2 RT :17 “year or two years.”

“Yes, we have a rate for dual credit students for, our early college that will be lower than what would be the rate for our traditional students. And to jump on what Peter said, one of our big missions, and what we're excited about, is more students coming out of our college with less debt.”

The administrators are aiming for around 100 students in total. 50 students taking college classes in the morning shift and 50 in the afternoon shift. When the students are not at MACC, they will take their regular high school classes. But both schools hope to see the number of interested students increase as the general student body increases. Stiepleman says this could help alleviate some of the pressures of the high school classroom because students will be at MACC. Stiepleman and Lashley basically say it’s a win-win no matter how you look at it.

STIEPLEMAN3 RT :13 “How amazing.”

“When you have almost one in every two kids participating in free, reduced lunch, this could be the absolute life changing moment to be able to attend a community college, get two years done, and then finish out the rest of your college career. How amazing.”

The administrators of both schools plan to hold an orientation meeting at some point in January to go over the fine details with students and parents who are interested in High School 2.0. Overall, Lashley says he has quote zero concern there’s anything the schools won’t be able to figure out.


Host: That was the superintendent for Columbia Public Schools and the president of MACC talking about the opportunity for high school students to earn their associate's degree for free. I'm Kassidy Arena and thanks for listening to Exam on KBIA.

The audio version of this story has been updated.

Kassidy Arena is the Engagement Producer for KBIA. In her role, she reports and produces stories highlighting underrepresented communities, focuses on community outreach and promoting media literacy. She was born in Berkeley, California, raised in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated with a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia.