HARRISBURG, S.D. (AP) — Students at a high school just south of Sioux Falls will soon be able to earn college credit free of charge through a new early college program.

Harrisburg High School board members unanimously approved a program Monday that will bring college courses to the campus through partnerships with South Dakota public universities, the Argus Leader reported .

South Dakota students have long been taking courses that give them both high school and college credit, but they've had to pay for those classes.

The South Dakota Board of Regents will allow the district to pay for the early college courses at the same rate as dual-credit courses, which was set at $48 per credit. That rate is discounted from the approximately $300 per credit for students who enroll in state universities after high school.

The program will cater to students who finish the necessary credits to complete high school ahead of their senior year or before their last semester.

"We are trying to find ways to keep them still very engaged in their education," said Linda Heerde, school board chair.

Classes will be facilities through the Sioux Falls University Center. Harrisburg also plans to work with Southeast Technical Institute to bring technical courses to students.

Superintendent Jim Holbeck plans to gauge interest from students this fall to help set the program's budget when it starts in spring 2018.

Holbeck also wants to increase internship and apprenticeship opportunities for students through partnerships with businesses, including an existing partnership with Avera Health.

"We're trying to get (students) involved with getting better exposure to what they might want to do with their vocation," he said.

School board member Mike Knudson said the new program solidifies the district's position as an innovator in the state.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com