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Students starting college in high school

Southwestern Michigan College’s Early College programs let students jump-start higher education by earning credits while still in high school, often for free. Jeremiah Wilson of Edwardsburg took advantage of the Early Middle College (EMC) partnership, which allows high school students to earn enough credits for an associate degree free of charge, between SMC and Edwardsburg High School.

EMC students extend their high school career an additional year — “grade 13,”—taking SMC and high school classes simultaneously through senior year, then SMC classes the final year. SMC has EMC partnerships with Edwardsburg, Dowagiac, Van Buren Tech Center and participating Berrien County districts.

“It was brand-new. I had never heard of it as an option before,” said Wilson who will have an associate degree by the time he graduates from Edwardsburg in June. “I’m not sure why more students don’t do this. It’s kind of a no-brainer. It was really rewarding” in terms of scholarships to further reduce college costs.

Wilson, the oldest of six children, also participated in SMC’s new Honors Program, conducting research that led him to present to the American Chemical Society in San Francisco; won the Math/Science Department Appreciation Award; and organized a May Trivia Night fundraiser benefiting the daughter of an SMC student to assist in fighting neuroblastoma cancer. He worked this summer for an Elkhart dermatologist.

This fall the 18-year-old attends Northland College in Ashland, Wis., starting with a 12-day August orientation backpacking trip.

Northland is a 600-student liberal arts college focused on the environment and sustainability.

Located at the tip of Wisconsin on the south side of Lake Superior, Northland is adjacent to a million acres of national forest, giving it an unparalleled living laboratory.

Wilson’s father’s 1994 alma mater cooperates with Michigan Technological University in Houghton and with Washington University in St. Louis on dual-degree engineering programs. Wilson has his eye on the private research school in Missouri.

Career Academies at SMC through Lewis Cass Intermediate School District (LCISD) allow students to begin a career or technical education degree while in high school. Students attend high school for the first half of the day, SMC for the second.

Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Marcellus schools participate, Niles for robotics and welding only and others with CTE approval.

Tuition, fees and books are paid for by the school district. Curriculum is set. Attendance and grades are monitored.

Career academies are offered in automotive technology, business, construction trades, criminal justice, graphic design, robotics, therapeutic services/health and human services and welding.

Stewart Daniels graduated from Edwardsburg High School with his SMC mechatronics certificate already in hand. He walked in the college’s 50th commencement May 6, then at Edwardsburg June 4.

A field trip to SMC’s Niles Campus sophomore year made him aware of mechatronics, a technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering.

This fall Daniels, whose parents are both pharmacists, expects to begin studying chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.

To get started in these programs, see your guidance counselor or contact an SMC admissions advisor at (269) 782-1238 or by e-mail at

Director of Admissions Jason Smith coordinates Early College, which also includes Direct Credit (courses taught by high school teachers at the high school the student attends that are eligible for college credit) and Dual Enrollment.