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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Matt McDonald finished high school a few months ago and he now is a junior at Weber State University.
McDonald, 18, started taking classes at Weber State while he was a junior and senior at Ben Lomond High School.
His participation in a program that allows high school students to take college classes for both high school and college credits is paying off.
He is now on a New Century Scholarship, which pays 75 percent of tuition for junior and senior years of college for students who earn an associate's degree by the summer after their senior year of high school.
The fast track through college is attracting more teens each year.
"I just wanted to get ahead. I feel it's an opportunity to do something better during my high school years," said Whitney Arnette, 18, a Clearfield High School senior who plans to apply for the New Century Scholarship.
"I want more than a piece of paper that says I graduated," Arnette said. "I want to be successful early in my life."
The Legislature created the New Century Scholarship program in 1999. The first year, 14 students received the New Century Scholarship. For the 2004-2005 school year, there are about 200 scholarship recipients.
"For highly motivated students, it's a great way to move forward quickly on your college education and have a large portion of your tuition paid for," said Dave Buhler, associate commissioner of higher education for public affairs.
McDonald was a sophomore when his parents, who both have master's degrees, encouraged him to try the program.
McDonald took the ACT college entrance exam at age 15 and began taking classes at Weber State in the fall of 2002, his high school junior year. He took two evening classes: introduction to psychology and university experience.
"I didn't have my driver license, so my parents or my sister drove me," McDonald said.
Entering college at age 16 was an experience, he said.
"I was by far the youngest person there," he said. "When people found out I was 16, they were kind of awkward around me. They pretty much just ignored me."
Arnette said it was intimidating being the youngest student in a college class. The ages were even higher in her classes, which were at the Weber State Davis Campus.
She said that after the initial adjustment, she enjoyed the more mature attitudes in her college classes, as compared to high school.
"The college students are an interesting mix of young and old, and they're all serious about what they're doing, just like I am," Arnette said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)