Attending college is more expensive than ever before. In North Carolina, parents and students are spending an upwards of $10,000 or more for tuition, books and living expenses.
Since 2007, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools has offered an alternative for high school students that enables them to earn college credits for free, while taking their high school classes. Cato Middle College High School paired with Central Piedmont Community College to allow students entering their junior and senior years to transfer in and take college and high school courses simultaneously.
Students who graduate from Cato have a year of college under their belt and can continue at CPCC or transfer to a four-year university.
For the first time, CMS will also have grade 13 available for students to continue earning college credits tuition free. By the end of the year, students can earn two years of college credit without paying a penny for tuition or books.
Cato Principal Joey Burch said he’s been working hard to get students at Cato.
“Until this school year we had never reached our capacity, but this school year, after a lot of hard work we reached our capacity,” he said. “We did have wait list but we were able to accommodate those on the wait list so we were able to have a junior class of 100 when we began this school year. It’s the best kept secret in CMS and I'm tired of the secret being a secret."
Students who transfer to Cato or Levine must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as 2.5 GPA and a clean disciplinary record. Principal Burch said students who are successful at the middle colleges are motivated and responsible.
“It requires some responsibility and maturity because they are coming and going and are in transition to and from campuses,” he said.
Students can apply online at the CMS website to attend a middle college, but they must enter the lottery. Each grade accepts 100 students and classes will begin in the fall.