Jillian Engel

While Miami University students are fighting for loans and scholarships, the next generation of college students in Ohio has an opportunity to get a head start on an undergraduate education.

Hundreds of high school seniors across Ohio are participating in the Seniors to Sophomores program, an initiative introduced by Gov. Ted Strickland for high schoolers to begin their college careers before graduation.

Strickland proposed the program in February 2008 and it officially began in fall 2008.

Currently, 374 students statewide are participating in the program, according to Strickland’s deputy communications director Amanda Wurst.

The Ohio Board of Regents presented a $100,000 grant to each partnering institutions, allowing pre-undergraduates to take college courses free of tuition, according to the Ohio Board of Regents Web site.

The $100,000 was the maximum each school could receive out of the $4 million allotted for the program’s budget, according to the Web site.

“The program is tremendously advantageous to these students not only because they have college credit under their belts, but also it’s at no cost to them,” Wurst said.

Although Miami’s Oxford campus does not participate in the program, Miami’s Middletown campus entered the program, partnering with the Warren County Career Center and Sinclair Community College to allow dual enrollment for high school seniors in Warren County, according to Cathy Bishop-Clark, assistant dean at Miami Middletown.

With two high school seniors in Warren County now enrolled at Miami Middletown, the program has also attracted seven additional students from Bishop Fenwick High School in Franklin, Ohio, Bishop-Clark said.

“I think the price is attractive, I think, for some students, the challenge is attractive and I think that others are ready to move on a little early,” Bishop-Clark said. “But I don’t think it’s for everybody.”

As the economy continues to suffer, though, the future of the “Seniors to Sophomores” program remains unclear. Bishop-Clark said Miami Middletown is uncertain of how the program will be funded in the upcoming years after the grant money is spent.

“The State of Ohio can’t afford to pay a year’s tuition for every student who is interested in doing this program,” Bishop-Clark said. “Figuring out the money is still a big issue.”

According to Wurst, Strickland will indicate how much funding is available for the Seniors to Sophomores program when he announces his budget for the approaching fiscal year to the Ohio General Assembly Feb. 2.

“If we get the funding piece worked out, it could potentially be a really neat program,” Bishop-Clark said.