CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A group of young and aspiring engineers may not realize how lucky they are to be able to sit in their classroom.
"We had close to 400 on the wait list for the 9th grade," said Principal Will Leach.
The Charlotte Engineering Early College is in its 3rd year and demand is through the roof. They accept 100 new 9th graders each August, and the 100 students from previous years continue on to 10th grade, 11th, and so on.
"Heard the message on the machine and jumped around for like 5 minutes," said Morgan Butts. "Then called my parents and said 'I got in! I got in!'"
Butts is a 10th grader who's hoping to be a doctor one day. By their junior year, these students can start earning college credits by walking right next door, and taking classes on UNC Charlotte's campus.
That's what Butts plans to do. Principal Leach says if students stay all 4 years of high school, and then a 5th year, they can leave with half of their college credits complete, all paid for by the state.
"In the $20,000 range that a parent and family would be saving," Leach said.
"That was the main reason I came here," Butts said. "Because I already know college is going to be expensive, as is med school. So as much as I can get paid for already, it's going to be beneficial."
These students spend their entire day at the Early College building, or at UNCC. Leach says they now have buses that come to each student's neighborhood and bring them to school for a 7:15 A.M. start time, and the day ends at 2:15 P.M. The program also gives them exposure to future employers.
"Our kids did projects and we displayed those projects and Duke Energy allowed us to use their facility," Leach said. "And Areva and several other companies around, Ingersoll Rand, companies around Charlotte came and judged our products."
It's a choice parents and their kids have that can get them career-focused at an earlier age, and save on future college tuition in the process. Now Leach says he's just hoping they can cut down that wait list and get more CMS students this opportunity.
"We would love to have a state of the art building where this could really take off," Leach said.
The way to apply for the early college now is through the CMS lottery system, similar to their magnet schools.
Principal Leach says if students decide to go to college somewhere other than UNC Charlotte, there's a chance that some of their credits won't transfer, but it's a case by case basis.
CMS also offers several Middle Colleges for students to enter starting in 11th grade.