Running Start hitting its stride at Clark College
This story was written by a staff reporter for The Independent, Clark College’s campus newspaper, as part of a collaboration with The Columbian called “Voices from Clark College.” It is also being published today in The Independent at http://clarkcollegeindependent.com.Liana Gandarillas is halfway to earning a college degree and on track to begin a career in the Air Force — and she’s still in high school.Gandarillas, 17, is one of 1,820 Running Start students taking advantage of two years of tuition-free college education at Clark College. Enrollment in the program is up 9 percent from last year, and Running State now accounts for about 13 percent of Clark’s student body of almost 14,000 students.The program’s growth continues a trend that began in 2000 of more students and families taking advantage of the program as higher education costs rise and household incomes stagnate or decline. Running Start, now in its 20th year, allows Washington high school students who qualify for college-level reading, writing and math work to take courses at community and technical colleges, where they earn both high school and college credit.The program isn’t without drawbacks. Some students and instructors complain that the high school students aren’t ready for the college classroom. School districts are required to reimburse the colleges for their costs, reducing funds for high schools already strained by years of budget cuts.