Fifteen years ago, OTC's Middle College was born to help at-risk high school students avoid dropping out. Today, the Middle College still serves that population, but some students over-achieve and earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school.
The 2022-23 school year marks the fifteenth year of operation for the Middle College at Ozarks Technical Community College. In 2007, Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder approached then-new OTC Chancellor Dr. Hal Higdon with an idea to lower the high school dropout rate and help credit-deficient students get back on track. The Middle College at OTC debuted a year later.
The program allows juniors and seniors in high school to leave their home-sending schools and attend OTC full-time. While the Middle College was born out of a need to help students who might be at risk of dropping out, the program has morphed into a “choice” program for many students who want a jump-start on college.
“We still serve that original population of students who need to get back on track to graduate from high school,” said Dr. Tiffany Brunner, OTC Middle College director. “But, now, we have students ready for a full-time college experience.”
Instead of a high school schedule where students attend classes at prescribed times, Middle College students take a mixture of high school and college courses throughout the day with free time in between. In 2019, four Middle College students achieved a significant milestone when they graduated from the Middle College, having earned their high school diploma and associate degree simultaneously.
“Those students worked incredibly hard and became pioneers in achieving both credentials simultaneously,” Brunner said.
This year, out of the 150 students enrolled in Middle college, 20 are on track to earn their associate degree. One of those students is former Parkview student Taylor Swickard.
“It has been a great fit. I am being pushed more than I have in a long time, and that is a great feeling,” she said. “It is a healthy push.”
Besides Springfield, Ash Grove, Clever, Everton, Nixa, Republic, Rogersville and Sparta send students to the Middle College. The price is right for students who pay a flat $60 fee per year. All other costs are supplied by their “sending” schools.