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Larned students taking advantage of tuition waivers
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LARNED — It’s hard to prepare students for life after high school, but Larned High School is taking the right steps by offering opportunities for students to take online college courses when their schedule permits.  
In addition, the school has been able to teach them the real world value of a dollar by illustrating the huge benefits of taking online classes with waived tuition through Barton Community College via Senate Bill 155.
With the passing of SB155 in July 2012, dozens of Barton’s career and technical classes, both online and on-site, qualify under the bill’s framework. That means students can take advantage of classes at no cost to them, except textbooks and program fees as applicable.  
Larned High School has had the most enrollments of any high school in SB155 classes through Barton and has designated certain times of the day for students to take advantage of online courses if their schedules permit.
Learned features a full-time virtual classroom facilitator, Mary Hunter, who acts as a support person alongside the school counselor to help guide students in their online educational journey.
“We feel these SB155 courses are beneficial because it gives students a chance to see what college classes are like before they get there,” she said.  “Plus, the SB155 classes in particular help them find out what areas they are actually interested in. They may think they are interested in a certain career field, but after taking a course may say ‘You know, this isn’t really what I want to do’ and they can look at something else and it doesn’t cost them a lot of money to figure that out.”
Hunter said the courses serve as a great way to get a serious and productive dialogue started with students about what field they may be interested in thanks to the career-oriented nature of the classes offered via SB155.
“It’s really helping students focus on what they want their careers to be and talking about them more specifically,” she said.  “Especially my seniors — we are starting to have more conversations and they’re really deciding what they want to do.”
Hunter said students take the courses seriously and have begun to realize how the money they save by knocking out college coursework via SB155 classes will positively impact their pocketbooks in the real world.
“We stress to them often exactly how much tuition is and how much it would be if they had to pay it, and that they ought to really grasp this opportunity,” she said.  “They seem to be kind of getting that, and now I have students coming to me, saying ‘Show me more things that I can do to save some money when I get to school next year.’ ”
Elaine Simmons, Barton’s dean of workforce training and community education, said Larned High School’s approach to online learning is encouraging.
“I’m so impressed with the Larned school district, specifically the support the high school team is extending to students interested in pursuing online college opportunities,” she said.  “School officials have made it possible to have a dedicated lab where students can work on their coursework. It doesn’t get any better than Mary Hunter. She is a wonderful student advocate and a great partner.  Hats off to Larned for supporting higher education opportunities for their students.”
Students from Great Bend, Ellinwood, Ellsworth, St. John and other area schools are also taking advantage of the SB155 online courses, as well as students from the Lawrence and Kansas City areas.
To learn more about SB155 or online classes contact Barton’s Community Education Coordinator Karly Little at or (620) 792-9294.