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Innovation Track Expands Degree Completion Opportunities in Lee’s Summit, Reduces College Cost for Students

By Jeff Murphy, December 15, 2017

WARRENSBURG, MO (Dec. 15, 2017) – The Innovation Track concept that the University of Central Missouri created to enable high school students to earn up to 30 hours of college credit is being extended to the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District to provide expanded degree completion opportunities in cooperation with Metropolitan Community College – Longview. The partnership between the school district, MCC and UCM also will provide high school juniors and seniors in Lee’s Summit with college credits at limited or no cost to the students’ families.

The Innovation Track was approved by the R-7 Board of Education at its Dec. 14 meeting. Also approved was district funding of the participation of Lee’s Summit R-7 students qualifying for the federal free/reduced lunch program (based on family income) in the Innovation Track as well as other dual-credit courses and International Baccalaureate courses/exams. The new program is expected to go to the MCC Board of Trustees for approval in January 2018. The UCM Board of Governors, MCC and Lee’s Summit R-7 will also be required to approve a memorandum of understanding among the three partnering organizations.

The R-7 Board of Education approved expenditures totaling approximately $396,402 for the 2018-19 school year. This includes the following:

  • Approximately $167,107 for the Innovation Track, including scholarships for tuition and textbook costs for qualifying students, a full-time R-7 staff member housed at the MCC campus,  and student transportation from home schools to MCC-Longview.
  • Approximately $200,595 to begin partially funding non-MCC dual credit classes for students qualifying for the scholarships.
  • An estimated $28,700 to begin partially funding International Baccalaureate exams for students qualifying for the scholarships.

Sophomores and juniors at all three R-7 high schools will learn more about the program in the next few weeks with enrollment for 2018-19 taking place Feb. 20, 21 and 22.

The Innovation Track is designed to offer the following to students:

  • A jump start on higher-education degree completion thanks to reduced cost and time to degree completion.
  • A quality education provided by partnered institutions.
  • Access to college and university resources, including full student privileges at higher-education institutions.
  • A seamless transition to becoming a MCC or UCM full-time student.
  • Greater flexibility and a competitive advantage for R-7 students among their peers.

In addition to saving students money and time, the Innovation Track has a number of advantages for students and the partnering organizations. The credits earned by the local students will be guaranteed to transfer from not only MCC to UCM but also to virtually any public post-secondary institution in Missouri. The program is also designed to attract students who are currently not enrolled in other Lee’s Summit R-7 dual credit options.

Charles Ambrose, UCM president, emphasized the university’s commitment to the Innovation Track program. Similar opportunities already have been created in cooperation with public school districts in close proximity to the university’s Warrensburg campus. The Innovation Track is an integral part of the Missouri Innovation Campus model that extends beyond the highly specialized degrees offered at the new facility in Lee’s Summit.

“We look forward to taking our collaboration to a new level of significance with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District and Metropolitan Community College on the Innovation Track initiative as a guided pathway to help high school students get a jump start on a college degree,” Ambrose said. “UCM launched its first Innovation Track program with Warrensburg High School in 2016, and our goal has been to extend similar opportunities to surrounding school districts.”

He added, “The R-7 School District and MCC continue to be exceptional partners when it comes to innovative ways to make higher education more accessible and affordable. This allows the value of the Missouri Innovation Campus to extend to all students in Lee’s Summit.”

“The Innovation Track maximizes the partnership between Lee’s Summit R-7, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri to provide matriculation in educational institutions that ultimately jump starts the college, workforce and career opportunities for all students,” said  Dennis L. Carpenter, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent. “This is good for students seeking a two-year or four-year degree as well as students interested in workforce development.  Ultimately, our entire community benefits from the district’s commitment to providing multiple pathways for students to leave us career and/or college ready. The board’s votes in support of the Innovation Track and broadening students’ access to existing Lee’s Summit R-7 post-secondary credit opportunities is demonstrative of the district’s commitment to our collective, long-term viability.”

Bob White, R-7 Board of Education president, added, “We are grateful to be able to enhance our partnership with MCC and UCM, especially the in-kind donation of MCC facilities and student support systems as well as the reduced tuition. The Innovation Track provides a collective advantage to our students, families, our community and our higher-education partners. Students who participate in this option will have the opportunity to potentially complete internships at an earlier rate than college peers and leave college with less debt - all while fully participating in the high school experience.”

During early December, Lee’s Summit R-7 high-school students participated in a survey to determine student interest in the Innovation Track. Of the 621 qualifying students surveyed 71.4 percent indicated they would be interested in participating.

To qualify for the Innovation Track, students must have a high school grade-point average of 2.5 and have scored 18 on the ACT college-entrance exam. Under the plan approved by the Board of Education, the school district will pay the cost of tuition and textbooks for students who qualify for the federal free/reduced lunch program, which is based on family income. Other students in the Innovation Track will pay for their tuition and books with MCC working to extend the dual credit rate for this special on-campus program allowing them to experience a 50 percent reduction in cost. In addition, the R-7 School District will begin offering scholarships for qualifying students for a portion of the cost of non-MCC dual enrollment credit and a portion of the cost of International Baccalaureate exams.

“From training our community’s workforce to preparing students to earn degrees and certifications, MCC’s work today is at the heart of our community’s success tomorrow,” said Kimberly Beatty, MCC chancellor. “This partnership is yet another example of how working together can address educational access and equity challenges by providing the entire community with access to higher education and higher earning potential. I am excited about our future.”

 Kirk Nooks, MCC-Longview campus president, added, “With our MCC-Longview campus embedded in the Lee’s Summit community, I am proud of the educational ecosystem we have created and the strong allies we have forged with the business community.  We are honored to work alongside such strong and valuable community partners.”

It is anticipated that up to 200 Lee’s Summit R-7 students will have the opportunity to participate in the Innovation track in 2018-19. Plans call for the enrollment capacity to increase in future years.

Families interested in the program will be receiving complete information from their children’s high schools by early January.


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