John McDonald is the superintendent at Kingsland Public Schools, but he sometimes refers to KPS as KPSS — as in Kingsland Post-Secondary Success. The jest appears to have increasing merit with each passing month.
On Monday, the district formalized an arrangement with Riverland Community College that makes Kingsland one of the first high schools in Minnesota to offer its students an in-house program to earn an associated arts degree. Starting with the class of 2015, Kingsland students will be able to complete a 62-credit college degree while simultaneously earning a high school diploma — all without ever leaving the familiar surroundings in Spring Valley.
Under the new relationship, McDonald says the associated arts or technical degree is "paid for by the state." That could save families tens of thousands of dollars and cut future college time in half, though not all credits will transfer to four-year private colleges. Many area school districts offer some college-level courses, but none currently offer the chance to earn a two-year degree.
Austin and Albert Lea are among other the districts in conversations to follow Kingsland's lead, according to Mindi Askelson, Riverland's director of placement and K-12 school relations. The Irondale school district pioneered the idea in 2012.