It's called dual enrollment. Montana's universities and colleges have joined with nearby high schools to give Montana students a head start on continuing their post-high education - while they're still in high school.

Missoula College of the University of Montana in Missoula has been offering some dual partnership with Frenchtown High School, but is now "upping the ante" with the Bronc Fast Track General Studies Certificate Program. The students who enroll will graduate with a high school diploma AND a UM certificate in general education.

What does that do for the students? While they're in high school, they earn college-level credits that they normally would have taken during their freshman year. The courses can be taken in-person or online through Missoula College or UM and can include biology, history, math, business, government, writing and other electives. And, of course, the credits are transferable with any Montana college or university.

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Frenchtown High School Principal Jake Haynes said in a news release, "We are thrilled about the streamlined nature of this program, which is ultimately an accelerated path to a college degree that will save students time and money while helping to prepare them for the expectations and responsibilities of postsecondary education. It is also a great way for high school students to potentially cut a year out of their two-year or four-year degree path."

He said the potential savings could be up to $15,000 for a student who is in the 30-credit dual enrollment program. Missoula College Dean Tom Gallagher said, "This certificate for graduating high school students might be the first of its kind in Montana."

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