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Making College More Accessible, Lee’s Summit R-7, MCC-Longview and UCM Celebrate Launch of Innovation Track with Signing Ceremony

By Jeff Murphy, May 22, 2018

WARRENSBURG, MO – Representatives of  Lee’s Summit R-7 School District (LSR7), Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and the University of Central Missouri on May 21 celebrated an opportunity to make college more accessible through the new Innovation Track, a program for high-school juniors and seniors beginning in fall 2018. Through this dual enrollment program, high-school students can earn up to 30 hours of college credit at MCC-Longview campus and through UCM at limited or no cost to the students or their families.
MCC R7 Innov.Track sign

The three partnering organizations joined together on May 21 at MCC-Longview for a ceremony commemorating the signing of the memorandum of understanding that officially launches the Innovation Track. Participating in the signing were Dennis Carpenter, Lee’s Summit R-7 superintendent; Kimberly Beatty, MCC chancellor; and Chuck Ambrose, UCM president. The three leaders, as well as Kirk Nooks, MCC-Longview campus president, were all featured speakers at the event along with three students who have enrolled in the 2018-19 program: Cassidy Robinson, Lee’s Summit High School junior; Rylie Anderson, Lee’s Summit North High School  senior; and Isaiah McDaniel, Lee’s Summit West High School senior.

The three students, who are among close to 60 enrolled in the Innovation Track for next year, shared their reasons for participating in the new dual enrollment program.

“I wanted to be a part of the Innovation Track because I wanted to get a head start on college credit courses,” said Anderson. “It is such an amazing opportunity to attend an actual community college while still in high school.”

“I chose to participate in the Innovation Track program because it seemed to be the perfect fit for my ambitious and very busy life,” said Robinson. “I believe this opportunity is the right path for me as it will provide the assistance and guidance that I need to get an early start on my post high school career.”

“I’m most excited about taking a lot of costs off my tuition, and I’m excited to get a new experience -- one that I don’t think anybody else has had,” added McDaniel. “I’m just happy to be one of the first few to get into this.”

Leaders from the three organizations emphasized the importance of their collaborative partnership as well as their desire to increase student opportunities and access to higher education. Through the Innovation Track, tuition costs at MCC are lowered to half their usual rate. Students qualifying for the free/reduced lunch program will receive scholarships covering the cost of the college credits.

“We got into this room with the sheer desire to make sure that we continue a pathway for students to be successful in this community and beyond,” Nooks said. “We didn’t know what it would look like but we knew at the end it would help students and their families reach a success that all of us dream and aspire to.”

He added that the agreement involves three entities that understand the very essence of collaboration.

Beatty focused on opportunity and reducing barriers to higher education, adding that the Lee’s Summit R-7, MCC and UCM partnership has already set the standard for collegiate experience for students through the nationally recognized Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) program.

“A couple of months ago, our Board partnered with me in agreeing that access is important by reducing the cost of dual enrollment to half the tuition, so that doesn’t become a barrier for students,” Beatty said. “We want to reduce that barrier so that all of the students who enroll in dual credit, including this program, will pay half the tuition they would normally pay (at MCC).”

Carpenter added that the Innovation Track will greatly reduce the cost of higher education for Lee’s Summit R-7 families.

“These are real dollars for parents -- $25,000 is the average cost of one year of college, and now we are able to get 30 credits to the tune of about $2,500. That helps our students pave the way,” Carpenter said, adding that the Innovation Track focuses on equity and keeps students at the center.

“Without question, the single driver of the wealth gap -- certainly the equity gap across race and several other social-demographic factors is driven off college cost, because we know the impact that college cost has on lifetime earnings and career altitude,” Ambrose said. “By virtue of opening that door of opportunity for some assistance for those students who need it the most makes the Innovation Track an equity-driver program that’s going to lift this community and this region to a new height.”

Ambrose noted that UCM partnership with MCC and R-7 on the Missouri Innovation Campus enables students to begin their college education while juniors attending the Summit Technology Academy, and complete their associate degree from MCC at approximately the same time they earn their high school diploma. They go on to finish their four-year degree at UCM, which also offers courses in Lee’s Summit. As a way to help take the MIC program to scale in other areas, UCM previously launched the first Innovation Track initiative in Warrensburg.

Ambrose added that the MIC construct is the only K-16 accelerated pathway of its kind in the nation, and  emphasized the importance of the new Innovation Track for students, educators, and the Lee’s Summit community. He noted that it is an achievement worthy of celebration.

“Our ability to help students compete and reduce barriers to degrees and maintain college cost, especially for underrepresented student populations, will be the single biggest driver to our collective future in maintaining a viable state for education across the country -- and it’s happening right here.”

In addition to UCM’s programs offered at the MIC, the university’s intent is to offer the last two years in the degree pathways offered by MCC (business, education, and criminal justice). Additionally UCM is committed to reducing the overall cost of a four-year degree with tuition that's been held below the rate of inflation for the past seven years, coupled with traditional scholarships (Red and Black and 15 to Finish) and the Innovation Track Scholarship ($500) awarded in the students last semester.

For more information about the Innovation Track, visit the website at


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