Running Start is a statewide program that allows high school juniors and seniors to attend community college tuition-free, earn college credits, and transfer to most four-year colleges and universities in Washington.
The program gives students—and their families—a chance to start the journey to a four-year experience debt-free. For high school juniors and seniors in Washington State, earning an associate degree at the same time as their high school diploma and transferring to a university as a junior saves at least $8,000.
Running Start Benefits Students and Families
Jasmin Faulk-Dickerson and her two sons Dante and Eros Faulk are a family that have reaped the benefits of the Running Start program. Eros is currently enrolled as a Running Start student, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Dante.
“It seemed like an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” Dante said of the program. He graduated from SPSCC and transferred to The Evergreen State College in 2020, where he’s currently focusing on completing his bachelor’s degree.
Eros is now in his second year of the program and sees lots of advantages to taking college courses over high school classes. “I like that I can make my own schedule, I have more classes to choose from, and there’s a focus on learning and student responsibility,” he said. When he graduates from SPSCC, Eros also plans to enroll at The Evergreen State College to continue his education.
Besides the cost savings benefits of Running Start, their mother Jasmin sees the program as a great way to introduce some freedom while having a support system still in place. As a multicultural immigrant who is passionate about intergenerational family living, Jasmin feels the program offers an opportunity to mirror those values to her children through education.
“Running Start feels like a really beautiful link between the two worlds of childhood and adulthood. You’re nurturing them, but also pushing them,” Jasmin said.
Flexibility and Cost
Like Dante and Eros, Alyssa Montgomery decided to enroll at SPSCC through Running Start because she liked the idea of choosing her own schedule. Alyssa started at SPSCC in the fall of 2019, and even before everyone was taking online classes due to the pandemic, Alyssa decided doing her coursework completely online would give her maximum flexibility.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of the traditional high school experience and I liked that I could do everything online.”
Alyssa said she’s known she would enroll in Running Start since her mom talked to her about the program when she was in sixth grade. Besides the flexibility, getting the first two years of college completed tuition-free was something she couldn’t pass up.
“Saving a lot of money was a huge selling point for me,” Alyssa said.
After she graduates this June, Alyssa plans to transfer to Centralia College to study elementary education and earn a four year degree.
Independence and New Experiences
Thea Deanon decided to enroll in Running Start after she was inspired watching her older brother go through the program. “I thought it was a cool experience and it saved a lot of money. I thought it would be a lot of fun,” Thea said.
Independence is important to Thea. Running Start gives her that while also presenting her with opportunities to grow. One way she’s growing is through being active in student leadership at SPSCC. Thea is part of the Campus Activities Board, a group of students that plan Student Life events.
Thea will graduate in June 2021 and plans to transfer to a four year institution where she’ll major in psychology. She wants to become a therapist one day, and mental health is something she advocates for. Having support like SPSCC’s Counseling Services is something she’s grateful to have access to.
“The support at SPSCC compared to high school is different. Counseling Services encompasses more of your life outside of school, not just academics.”