New program offers free year of college to Valley high schoolers

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- It is a program that could save you thousands of dollars in college tuition for your child and, at the same time, set him or her up for a lifetime of success in the most in-demand careers.

It is a chance to help guide your child to the best education possible, while he or she is still in high school

Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller is proud to show off the new engineering center going up in the heart of campus.

“It is going to house our college of engineering, which starts in the fall. We are starting with electrical, mechanical and biomedical engineering," Mueller said.

But as excited as Mueller is about this facility, he is even more excited about some of the students who will fill it.

“A student who finishes their sophomore year with a 3.25 GPA or higher can enter the summer before their junior year into a STEM pathways program," he said.

With a recently announced partnership, that program allows students to earn college credit for free.

“Complete 32 college credits while they are in high school, which in effect takes care of their first year of college, and sets them in the direction of earning an engineering degree, computer science degree, biology degree, in a period of three years,” Mueller explained.

The program will launch in the Peoria Unified School District.

Nearly a dozen students are already enrolled in the MET Professional Academy at Peoria, through which the program will operate. Those students are in the technology program. Fellow students in the medical field will be the first to take part at GCU.

“It is really important for us to create partnerships with community and partnership with our educational institutions here in our state," said Adriana Parsons with Peoria Unified School District.

She said the program not only gives students a leg up educationally, but also financially.

“And that helps with the financial burden that is coming down a lot of our students," Parsons said.

Jesse Caige Hernandez is part of the technology program and says anything that helps financially is a plus for students.

“I mean, tuition is a monster, and student loans are going to stay with you for the rest of your life," Hernandez said. "So, the college credits, that is really a great benefit.”

Back a GCU, Mueller can't wait to see those first students arrive, saying an investment in them is an investment in success.

“We are primarily about the prosperity of this community, and so we are willing to make this investment. We know that it's going to pay off for Phoenix, and especially for west Phoenix, and for the state of Arizona," he said.

Again, that program will start with students from Peoria. GCU is now working with the Phoenix Union High School District to get that program going there.

The plan is to eventually have 700 students from districts throughout the Valley. Parents, it is important you talk with counselors, teachers and administrators on a regular basis to take advantage of the program as it becomes available.