Today’s path to higher education is lined with a gamut of obstacles.

From mounting tuition costs to selective entrance requirements, attaining a college degree involves more than adequate study time, especially for incoming freshmen.

In an effort to reduce these challenges, Northern Kentucky University has opened more classes to high school seniors looking to take classes at a discounted price.

“The state of Kentucky wants students coming out of high school to be college ready,” says Dr. Vicki Berling, NKU’s education outreach director. “It’s really important that these kids come in [to college] with a realistic approach.”

In November, NKU and the Northern Kentucky Superintendents Association agreed to expand the School-Based Scholars Program for high school seniors throughout the region.

The enhanced program is part of Senate Bill 1, which legislators passed in 2009. Among the academic standards set forth, SB 1 called for reducing remediation rates by at least 50 percent by 2014.

NKU currently has 647 high school students enrolled for college classes, while the new School-Based Scholars Program hopes to increase that number to 1,000 by fall 2016.

“It’s a mutually beneficial partnership, by working so closely with schools. Because they work with students at a younger age, it helps us understand the needs of the next generation of learners,” says Berling.

According to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of high school students taking college courses has increased by 200,000 since 2002.

Matt Wehrle, a senior at Dixie Heights High School with a 3.9 grade point average, plans to attend Northern Kentucky University in fall 2014. The Edgewood native thought the School-Based Scholars Program could help him reduce overall tuition costs while easing him into an academic routine.

Wehrle is currently taking courses in public speaking and African-American studies. Every week, instructors from NKU come to his Dixie Heights High School where they teach anywhere between 20 to 25 students.

“It will be nice going into freshman year understanding how things operate. It’s a really a good way to get ahead and it’s saving me money in the long run,” says Wehrle, who plans on majoring in physical therapy. “I’d rather get my feet wet than jump head first.”

Berling hopes more students like Wehrle take up the opportunities the school-based credit program offers. To encourage students, NKU and Northern Kentucky high schools have lowered the GPA requirement to 3.0 from 3.25, and reduced the price per course from $337 to $225.

NKU also increased the number of courses students can take to eight, including classes like Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Arabic, Anthropology and others.

“A lot of high school teachers don’t have the background to teach some of the courses, and some of these students find them interesting,” says Berling, who believes the classes will prime students for a successful first year of college.

“Seniors think they can do anything that’s not academically challenging, while students coming off a rigorous academic experience have a more realistic approach when they get to college,” she says.