BOSTON (CBS) – Tuition fees and the debt that often come with earning a degree can make college feel out of reach for many students. Vocational high schools are a popular alternative, but how can students create the bridge between trade school and a well-paying job?
A Boston non-profit school lets high school kids begin college courses while they’re still seniors and they get a leg up on the competition.
Akyra Sealey is a senior at Madison Park, the technical vocational high school in Boston, and she has big dreams.
“I want to aim for my master’s degree so I’m just going to keep coming back and back,” Akyra said.
So a couple of days a week Akyra is here at Madison Park meeting with her adviser like any high school senior.
But she spends most of her time at the Benjamin Franklin Institute – she takes college level courses every day that will allow her to get her associates degree in health information technology by one year after she receives her high school diploma.
“It’s been really awesome, I love college,” she says. “When I was little I would say, ‘Ugh I don’t want to go to college. I think it’s boring,’ but turns out I’m wrong!”
Her Madison Park adviser, Taneka DeGrace, recalls it was daunting to Akyra at first, but she’s saving almost $8,000 in free tuition, gets free books and has enthusiastically embraced the challenge.
“She collects all those credentials so when she graduates from BPS and continues on from Benjamin Franklin she’s almost halfway done with her associate’s degree,” DeGrace said.
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology is a non-profit college – established with money left in the will of the great man himself. As the idea of higher education evolves, staff members like Yasmine Julmisse see students like Akyra leading the way.
“So students not only get a chance to see ‘What’s a good fit for me? Which major do I really want to study?’ and that exploratory phase with no financial responsibility is awesome,” Julmisse said.
Tuition at Benjamin Franklin in $17,000 a year and 90 percent of all students are eligible for financial aid.