Over the years, many high school students have taken the Running Start program to earn college and high school credit. But what if there was an alternative to taking Running Start?

Well, there is.

More and more schools across the country are offering College in the Classroom opportunities for high school students. These are like Running Start classes, but instead of driving all the way to the local college to take classes, students can take them at their high school under the instruction of their existing teachers.

These College in the Classroom courses have been around for the past several years, and many schools are starting to offer more courses. While there are other programs in this state that offer credit at places like Central Washington University and Washington State University, the College in the Classroom courses here are linked to the University of Washington.

Many Yakima Valley schools are offering these “UW in the High School” courses. Toppenish High School offers five courses, the most in the area, including English, Spanish, precalculus and science. West Valley High School has four options, including English, psychology and history. Sunnyside High School has three courses — precalculus, a survey of oceanography and information technology/computer science. Selah High School offers an English and a psychology course. Davis offers a biology course, and La Salle offers a course on fluency in technology.

“College in the classroom is a great opportunity with a partnership with the University of Washington where students get the opportunity to gain both college and high school credit,” said Jeff Weeks, an English teacher at Selah High School, who also teaches the University of Washington’s English 131 freshman composition course.

Teachers such as Weeks must be qualified to teach college courses and meet with UW administrators to determine eligibility in order to teach College in the Classroom courses.

Many students and parents may wonder what the key differences are between Running Start and College in the Classroom.

Aside from College in the Classroom classes taking place at the high school campus, students can still have the social interaction with their peers, get the college credit for a reduced price, and save immensely on gas money. At this point, most College in the Classroom courses are freshman courses, and the program does not allow students to complete all general education credits toward an associate’s degree.

Compared to a traditional college course, College in the Classroom is significantly cheaper. For example, English 131 at Selah costs around $350, whereas the price is almost three times that at UW. Most of the classes offered can also be more affordable overall than taking the Running Start program. That’s because students get to use most of the books for free, and only have to pay the class fee. Although students do get reduced prices in a Running Start program, they still have to buy the books and pay a class fee, and spend the money on gas driving to campus every day.

Jacob Mahugh, a 17-year-old junior at Selah, is taking English and precalculus. He said that College in the Classroom is “a new experience that is very different from normal, advanced or AP classes.”

He added: “I think that it is very intriguing and refreshing class that departs from the monotony of normal high school classes.”

In Jeff Weeks’ class, 37 students are enrolled with 31 of them taking it for five college credits.

Students have the option of taking the classes for high school credit only, also.

Marina Ford, a junior at Selah High School, said “It gives you some college experience and what to expect for workload and classes.”

Compared to regular classes or Running Start, Ford agrees with the benefits of taking the college classes. “You definitely get more social interactions, and compared to high school classes, you learn so much more,” she said. “You’re surrounded by people who want to be there and excel.”

Said Weeks: “I’m excited for students at Selah High School to have this opportunity to take college classes and gain credit while on campus at reduced rates.”

• Ryan Miller is a junior at Selah High School and a member of Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.