Columbus high school seniors will be among the first in Ohio to get a jump-start on college under a new program. Beginning this fall, the Seniors to Sophomores program will give high-achieving seniors a chance to earn a year's worth of high school and college credits at the same time-- at no cost.

"We strive very hard to go after every opportunity that will benefit our students and get them college credit," said Jeff Warner, Columbus City Schools' spokesman. "We've been a leader in this area in central Ohio."

Gov. Ted Strickland unveiled the concept in his State of the State address in February as part of the state's new 10-year plan to boost enrollment and quality at Ohio's public colleges. The program will make college education more accessible and affordable, state chancellor Eric D. Fingerhut said.

Columbus was one of 78 groups to apply for state aid of up to $100,000 each to get the Seniors to Sophomores program up and running. The state announced last month that 42 schools or districts will receive grants totaling slightly more than $4 million. The applicants were concentrated in northeastern Ohio.

The three central Ohio winners were:
Columbus Schools, which will partner with Columbus State Community College and The Ohio State University: $97,754. Liberty Union-Thurston Schools in Fairfield County, which will work with Columbus State, Shawnee State University and Ohio University-Lancaster: $100,000. Tolles Career & Technical Center in Madison County, which will pair with Clark State Community College, Shawnee State University and Columbus State: $100,000.
The full list of winners can be found at: http://universitysystem.ohio.gov/ seniorstosophomores.