Earning college credits in high school

When DJ Mahler was 10, his parents sat him down and told him that they expected him to go to college.

The Franklin Community High School senior’s parents, Dennis and Kim, didn’t attend college when they were younger, and they didn’t want their son to follow in their footsteps.

His parents opened a bank account for his college education, and his dad started setting aside $25 per week from his paycheck. As DJ Mahler heads to Ball State University this fall, that account now has nearly $10,000.

His parents also instilled in him that college would be expensive, and they don’t want him graduating with a large amount of student loan debt. Even at 10, Mahler had a grasp of the costs of college and searched for ways to start saving money.

Over the years, he saved up money from a multitude of jobs, such as working as a shift manager at Dairy Queen, giving guitar lessons, mowing lawns for neighbors and being a sound technician for the high school and Artcraft Theatre in Franklin. When he received money for Christmas or his birthday, he would save it for things he really wanted. He saved up $5,000 to purchase his own truck before he could even get a driver’s license and has saved $1,000 each summer for college.

Mahler still will have to take out student loans, but he plans to work at a Dairy Queen in Muncie during the school year.

He has a plan mapped out for the next three years: Attend and graduate from Ball State University, then join Edward Jones Investment’s six-month internship program and get a job with the financial advising company. With the internship program, he will be paid to study for his investment exam.

He is already ahead of some of his classmates, with 50 college credits he earned while in high school.

When Mahler was in eighth grade, he heard about Franklin’s early-college program, in which students can take college courses as early as the freshman year. The program is free to the family and is geared toward first-generation college students. Only 30 students per year are picked for the program.

Even with rigorous college courses, Mahler has maintained a 3.67 GPA. In order to stay in the program, students have to volunteer a minimum of 120 hours before graduating; he has a whopping 528 hours.

With the courses he has completed in high school, Mahler said, he should be able to skip Ball State’s general education courses and start taking finance courses immediately.

The nearly two years of college credits saved Mahler more than $14,200 in tuition. When he starts classes this fall, he will be 10 credits shy of being a junior. He plans to finish college in two years, instead of the normal four.

The Mahler File

Name: DJ Mahler

High School: Franklin Community High School

GPA: 3.67

Parents: Dennis and Kim Mahler

College: Ball State University

Major: Finance

Cost of one year’s tuition: $17,804

How they are paying for it:

  • Parents’ savings: $9,600
  • Students’ savings: $1,000 per each summer worked
  • Scholarship: $100
  • Credits earned while in high school: 50, cutting more than $14,000 off the total college costs
  • The rest: Student loans