Sitting in her regular seat at a recent Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board meeting, reviewing notes on redesign and community engagement, this reporter heard something that caught her attention.

At the November 7 meeting, flexible pathways/early enrollment option for high school students to attend college early was brought up. Early enrollment allows seniors to attend the first year of college for a reduced price rather than attend classes at Harwood. Harwood currently has 20 seniors participating, double last year’s total of 10.

Students are attending Clarkson University, Northern University, VTC, CCV and Norwich University.

How amazing is it that kids can get a tuition-free year of school, when the most expensive years of college are the first two years while paying for books, meals and room and board?

One would think, don’t we all wish we had this opportunity? Per 2013’s Act 77, which created a flexible pathways initiative, students can apply for and receive up to $75,000 in grant money to pursue a pathway of dual enrollment, early college, career technical education and work-based learning.

Were all students since 2013 offered this? And, if they had been, wouldn’t they have been crazy not to participate and get a free year of college?

Sadly, some board members don’t share a lot of enthusiasm for the program. Their concern is that early enrollment is not beneficial to the district because it means that the school’s student count would go down. And that means that the district’s per pupil cost goes up – a metric that determines tax rates.

It is hard to fathom why board members would fail to encourage every student for whom college represents a financial challenge to take advantage of this program. Surely the opportunity for these students should matter more than a few more coins in the coffers.

If we want to help students in the district, let’s help them plan for their future. Let’s make sure they are well informed about an important tool like the one offered by Act 77.

Take it from someone who graduated with over $100,000 in state loans and federal loans Saving that first year’s worth of loans would have helped a lot!