CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board is expected to approve a new program which actually creates a grade 13 for high school students, but they also graduate with two years of college credits under their belt.
“It's exciting because I know I'm saving money," said Senior, Asia Edwards.
Students at CMS’s CATO Middle College High School aren't just getting their diplomas, they're also getting nearly a year of college for free right now.
"When they graduate with an average of 30 college credits, some of them stay at CPCC and finish their associates degree while others transfer to a four year university," said Principal Joey Burch.
Right now there's 200 students a year benefiting during junior and senior years, but starting next year, CMS is not only adding another campus, they're adding a 13th grade to the program. It’s something current students say they wouldn't mind because you would graduate with a two year associates degree.
"It saves you a lot of money, ‘cause if you take summer classes, you have to pay. But this year 13, you wouldn't have to pay for [it]," said junior Fallon Scott.
And that's not the only program getting students a jump start on college.
"The second one is called Early College High School, which will be a partnership between UNCC and CMS, in which it will be a 9-13 program," said Burch.
Students will also graduate with an associate’s degree from that program, which they say compensates for not having a traditional high school experience.
"A few things here and there are no sports teams, no bands. I was involved in band, so there's none of that, but I feel the pros outweigh the things it takes out," said Junior, Eshaan Zaveri.
Students say, they with the freedom of the program and college classes, they're ready for their future.
"You get to learn how to be in the college environment, and I thought that was kinda cool ‘cause it prepares me for going to a four year school next year," said Senior, Alma Washington.
Students can begin enrolling in January for the 13th grade program and Early College High School at UNCC; they'll both stay open until they're full. Any Mecklenburg County students can apply; they just have to have a minimum 2.5 GPA and a clean behavior record.