Kansas City area high school students are getting hands-on learning through a one-of-a-kind program offered at the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit.
The University of Central Missouri and Metropolitan Community College is teaming up with 18 area school districts and various business partners to bring the project to life. The program initially started at the former Summit Technology Academy.
Stan Elliott, director of the MIC program, said it allows high school students to gain real-world experience in five programs: system administration, design and drafting, software development, bioinformatics and cybersecurity. A sixth program, software engineering, will begin in the summer.
Through MIC, students to gain real-world experience through a three-year internship. Elliott said students enroll in the MIC program their junior year of high school and have an internship by their senior year. While enrolled in the MIC program, Elliott said students earn dual credit from their high school. This allows students enrolled in the program the ability to receive a bachelor’s degree with two years of college rather than four.
“That’s how we can accelerate them because our graduates get their bachelor’s degree two years after they graduate high school,” Elliott said. “So we have to depend on dual credit to accelerate them to that degree.”
A major goal of the program is to not just allow students to graduate with real-world experience but to also graduate debt free.
“With students, it’s a very popular program because they’re graduating debt free their first two years of college,” Elliott said. “We pay the tuition. The program is all delivered here, so there’s no room and board. They don’t have to go to campus, so that’s a big cost savings for a lot of the students as well. And over that three-year paid internship, they average about $30,000 that they make doing that internship. So, that really helps to offset any costs that they have to pay for their last two years in the program.”
Charles Link, a junior from Lone Jack High School, is studying software development. He said the program will help students increase their net worth.
“Based on some papers I’ve done, or that I’m doing currently, I know this (the MIC program) is definitely going to help with our individual lives,” Link said. “One interesting fact that I’ve come to learn is that you can quadruple the amount of your net worth by not having any student debt. And I think that it’s amazing that we can go through such amount of classes and not have to pay.”
While the program seems like an excellent opportunity for many students, it requires a lot of hard work and dedication to reap the rewards of the program. Elliott said the program requires students to have a 3.0 GPA, test into college algebra and English on the ACT or AccuPlacer exams and have at least a 95 percent attendance record.
Logan Infranca, a junior at Raytown High School, is studying software development. He haS one piece of advice for students considering the program.
“Make sure you have a lot of time management because you’re going to have to start balancing high school and college at the same time,” Infranca said.
Elliott said the program has a 60-65 percent retention rate. However, there is a 99 percent placement rate among those who complete the program, with 98 percent of those students continuing to work for the company with which they interned.
Currently, there are 96 students enrolled in the program from urban, suburban and rural high schools. Elliott said 11 students graduated last May from the program.
Elliott said the MIC program is unique nationwide.
“We’re not aware of any other program that offers a bachelor’s degree two years after high school and a year-round, three-year paid internship,” Elliott said. “We’re not aware of it and we’ve been told before by the U.S. Department of Ed that they’re not aware (of any other program.)”