KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Currently, Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever. According to the website Student Loan Hero, the average debt for class of 2017 graduates was more than $39,000.
The Dual Enrollment Program through Metropolitan Community College (MCC) is helping students avoid those costs.
Lovie Buie is a senior at Southeast High School, although you won't find her there. Buie is part of the Dual Enrollment Program. On May 17, Buie will walk across the stage at MCC, graduating with her Associate's Degree.
"In the beginning, it was kind of rocky, but once you go and get the hang of it, it's cool," said Buie.
The Dual Enrollment Program at MCC began in 2011 as a way for high school students to graduate with more than a diploma.
"We have a growing number of students who actually earn a degree or a certificate or a credential by the time they graduate from high school," said Michael Banks, Vice Chancellor for College and Community Relations at MCC.
Seven years ago, only a handful of students were part of the program. On May 17, 93 students will receive their Associate's Degree, sometimes even before their high school diplomas. It's an increase from 2017 with 76 graduates.
"I know the students are very excited, and they like to brag about that all the time," said Banks.
According to Student Loan Hero, the average cost per credit hour is $594. For high school students enrolled at MCC, it's just over $50.
At the beginning of 2018, the MCC Board of Trustees passed a resolution allowing all in district schools to receive 50 percent off every credit hour.
Several school districts, like Buie's, will pay the fee for students, allowing them to go for free.
"Before I heard about the program, it was always like, college is very expensive so you might want to start looking, so I heard two years for free and I was like definitely," said Buie.
Next week, Buie will graduate from Southeast High School and MCC. In the fall she will start on her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology at the University of Missouri.
MCC averages about 3,000 high school students annually per academic year who are taking classes at MCC for dual credit or they are dually enrolled.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the Park Hill School District will join MCC's dual credit and enrollment programs. They will be the 14th district to provide students with the opportunity to graduate high school with college credit.