Running Start program helps Puyallup students get college credit early

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Running Start is a dual credit program in the state of Washington in which high school juniors and seniors earn college and high school credit at the same time.

Students take college classes on campus just like any other college student, but these students are far from ordinary.

“Every year we have these incoming sophomores and juniors that are preparing and making decisions for what they’re going to do their junior and senior year in high school,” District Running Start Director Valerie Frey explained. “A number of them - almost 2000 of them which is where we’re at right now - make the decision that they want to do Running Start because they want the rigors of college and want the opportunity to get an associate degree.”

After their junior and senior year, some kids leave the program with an associate degree. Others earn as many as 90 credits to enter college as a junior.

“With a lot of first-generation students here, there’s a lot of things they don’t know, and their parents don’t know. So, the great thing about Running Start is not only do they have the support of the Pierce College staff, they also have the support of their high school counselors.”

Administrators don’t want barriers of transportation or cost to be reasons for kids not be able join the program. All Puyallup-based students will be given free ORCA cards. Financial aid is available too.

“If the student is a foster youth, if they receive free or reduced lunch from school district, or a family member receives public assistance then they can complete our waiver.”

That fee waiver makes the first 15 credits completely free thanks to state funding – which about 16% of the Running Start kids take advantage of.

The program is student approved.

“If you are thinking about doing it and you think you’re ready, i would do it because it’s an incredible experience. have a blessed here!” recent Running Start graduate Cameron Adams said with a smile.

Last year 2,000 students were enrolled in the program and this coming school year is set to surpass that number by a large margin, setting a record.