Some Running Start students may have to pay tuition for courses at Columbia Basin College starting this fall.
And all students working on associate's degrees while still in high school will have to keep college administrators apprised of how many classes they are taking overall.
New state rules designed to cut down expenses for the program -- which lets students be enrolled in high school and college at the same time -- limit the number of classes paid for by the state.
The new rules are confusing -- students will have to pay full tuition for any courses they take beyond the equivalent of 120 percent of a full-time load, said Maddy Jeffs, CBC's vice president for student services.
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That load is calculated by adding up all courses a student takes -- at the high school and at college.
Previously, Running Start students could take as many classes as they wanted at either, and the school districts and CBC would get fully paid, said Bill Saraceno, CBC's vice president for administration.
Now, students have to pick and choose -- or pay.
A full-time course load at CBC is 15 classroom hours per week, Jeffs said. Depending on which courses are taken, that could be three to five courses.
A full-time load at high school is five hours a day, state documents show.
According to the new rules, a student could, for example, take three courses of five credits each at CBC, plus one class at his or her high school, without having to pay any tuition.
That is commonly as much schoolwork as CBC counselors recommend to the teenagers, Jeffs said.
Problems could arise, however, when students add an easy offering from either of their schools to their full-load mix.
Students often sign up for the CBC fitness center mid-quarter because they discover their friends are working out there, Saraceno said.
That could add up to four credits to their total, he said. Similarly, a student might decide to take high school band. It wouldn't add academic stress, and might relieve some.
But it would add to the total credit hours taken by that student.
And that could push the student over the newly set limit and force him or her to pay college tuition.
State school officials are currently preparing forms explaining the new rules in a table of possible course combinations.
CBC expects to get the forms in the next few days and will send out letters to all Running Start students early next week, Jeffs said. The forms need to be signed by students, parents and high school counselors, and then returned to CBC.
That's part of the problem administrators and students face -- everyone's already signed up for the fall under the old rules.
About 630 Running Start students have already signed up for fall classes, Jeffs said. They now need to calculate their full-time equivalent and possibly adjust their selections.
Parents need to explain to their kids not to sign up for extra classes online in the middle of the quarter, or "some parents are going to get some bills and be surprised," Saraceno said.
For most students, the change won't be a problem once everyone understands the new system because they are not taking more classes than the state pays for anyway, Jeffs said.
"You just need to be constantly vigilant before you make a change in schedule and be aware of financial consequences," she said.
CBC will hold an information session for Running Start students 6 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Gjerde Center on campus.