5:55 PM EST, February 15, 2013
ROCKY MOUNT, Va.
It's the time of year when high school seniors have to make that tough decision: What do I do next?
For the guidance counselors who advise them, answering that question has gotten a little easier, thanks to the Community College Access Program (CCAP).
With this program, high school students who qualify get two years of their education at Virginia Western Community College absolutely free.
“We have kids with 4.0's that could get into any college they wanted to go to, but they go to Western,” Franklin County High School Guidance Counselor Barry Whitlow said.
Whitlow says some used to view community college inappropriately, as a source of embarrassment for those who went there.
For many students now, it's a source of pride.
“Seems like every year our percentage of kids going to two year schools versus four year schools increases a little bit,” Whitlow said.
Senior Elizabeth Arrington isn't your average student. She's already got her plan set in stone.
“I'm planning on going to Virginia Western Community College,” Arrington said.
Elizabeth has a 4.3 GPA and will be starting out at community college after graduation.
“I will be paying for nothing but books and gas to get to school,” Arrington said.
Then it's UVA for two years to study speech pathology.
Same story for Hailey Kidd, who plans on spending two years at Virginia Western before moving on to Old Dominion University to study orthodontics.
“I told my dad and he was crazy, you know, 'please, do it, do it, do it' any way to save money is good,” Kidd said.
Whitlow said: “The parents are definitely excited about it, college is a big expense. Mostly they just call to find out when they can apply, what they need to do, want to know what the deadlines are that kind of thing.”
CCAP's popularity signifies a changing landscape economically and educationally from parents to students and the counselors who guide them.
“The guidance has been helpful. Questions about the financial aid process and everything throughout CCAP. It's been very helpful, the school helps you out a lot,” Kidd said.
Around 50 graduates at Franklin County alone will come to Virginia Western for free.
The minimum GPA to qualify for CCAP is a 2.5. While the program is partly need-based, the program could become more competitive as it program gains more popularity.
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