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College Connection program saves students big

Published On: Mar 10 2014 08:25:59 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 10 2014 08:37:14 PM CDT
REDDING, Calif. -

There may not be a better deal when it comes paying for the first year of college than the College Connection program on the Shasta College campus, and it’s open to students across the Northstate.

The average student loan debt for people coming out of college in 2012 was nearly $30,000 so parents and students are scrambling for ways to save.

A year's tuition and fees at Chico State runs nearly $7,000.

At Shasta College students pay over $1,100 per year.

But high school students in the College Connection program pay just $79.

Teacher and adviser Alan Spivey said the program doesn’t garner much attention, although it’s existed for 18 years.

“We are surprised at how little the program is known considering how long it's been out here,” Spivey said. 

Most students spend their senior year on their high school campus, taking the final courses needed for graduation, but College Connection students take their senior year high school courses at the same time they are taking basic college courses on the Shasta College campus. It can save thousands of dollars.

Prospective students might have concerns they'll miss out on all of the things that make a senior year special, but Enterprise High School senior Samantha Hunt, who is in the program, says not so much.

“I do mock trial over at enterprise,” Hunt said. “I'm still involved, I get to go to all the dances and still kind of be involved on campus.”

Spivey said they accept students from all over the spectrum and some from even as far away as Corning.

"We have students that are involved in cheer leading, involved in athletics, mock trial,” Spivey said. “We had a bull rider from Red Bluff a few years back and he still made it down there and still rode his bull.”

They accept students with any grade point average, as long as it is passing, but they just so happen to have one of Central Vally High School's best students in the program.

“I'm valedictorian,” Andrew Veenstra said. “Or I might be valedictorian; I'm one of the top two.”

While Veenstra comes from Central Valley, he'll be going somewhere much bigger.

“I've gotten accepted into Berkeley, Cal Poly, a few other CSU’s and I'm waiting to hear back from Stanford and Columbia,” he says.

Samantha Hunt was also accepted to her top choice school, Dominican University in San Rafael, and she said she owes a lot to the College Connection program.

“A big reason the admissions office told me they picked me was because they saw this on my resume and they think that it's a sign of taking initiative,” says Hunt.

But it's more than just a resume builder for the College Connection students.

Veenstra said wherever they go next, they'll hit the ground running.

“You don't really know what college is like until you start taking classes," he said. "This has been a nice transition to go from high school classes to taking some college classes and getting a feel for what college is really like.”

The program is still accepting applications from students for next year.

Interested students can visit the College Connection webpage for more information and an application and ask their high school councilors about the details.