Advanced Opportunities Program provides college money for Gem state high-schoolers

Posted at 5:49 PM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 20:13:28-04

If you're having a hard time scraping up cash for your kids' college education, listen to this.

Every high-schooler in the Gem state now has some cash to burn on college credits. It's part of a newly revamped, state program called Advanced Opportunities.

Abi Calderwood is a senior at Skyview High School in Nampa. She's using her fast-forward money to buy college credits and get all her general classes out of the way.

The financial boost couldn't have come at a better time for seniors like Calderwood who are trying to make the most of it.

"It's a good opportunity, especially for families who don't have that much right now. College is so expensive these days," Calderwood says. "It [Advanced Opportunities Program] takes a year out of the college I need."

Basically, anything that's college credit-bearing, Advanced Opportunities wants to pay for.

The way it works is that each middle and high-schooler in the state, 7-12 grades, has $4,125 to spend throughout their academic career.

The program operates differently, depending on which school you attend.

At Skyview High School, they have a college and career advisor on staff to help guide students through this process.

"A lot of people are confused because they think they can use it for ACT, SAT, college entrance exams," says Mallory Essman, the college and career advisor at Skyview High School. "That is not what this is intended for."

Students can use their funds for dual credit courses and overload courses that are in addition to their already full schedule. For example, money could be used for an online course. The funding can also be used for college credit-bearing or professional certification examinations.

Skyview High School students are expected to take on these courses only if they are ready for the challenge.

If you were to fail a course, it would count against you and appear on your college transcripts. Plus, you would have to pay for your next advanced course before Fast-Forward funds would kick in again.

As for Calderwood, she wants to be a veterinary technician and already has plans to go to the College of Southern Idaho after graduation.

However, Calderwood also knows that life, in general, is about balancing work and play as she is still active in band and choir.

"I think it's important to also have those activities (extra-curricular) and also get our education in and not try to overload ourselves with one thing," Calderwood says.

Before ever stepping foot on a college campus, high school students now have the potential to walk away with an associate's degree.

The state has a goal of having 60 percent of its youth hold a college degree or certificate by 2020.

Essman recommends that students and parents get advice from counselors and/or advisors at their school before enrolling in any college credit-bearing course.