The state of Idaho is expanding a unique experiment to try to help students, especially those from low-income households, have a better chance at getting into and succeeding in college. Under this program, students will get an account with money to use in certain college related areas. This also puts Idaho alongside New York as one of the states experimenting with new methods to make college more accessible for students.

What exactly is Idaho's program?

The Fast Forward program that Idaho is running will be open to any students that attend a public high school in the state, as long as they are between the ages of 12-18 and are in grades 7-12.

Students that sign up for the program then receive $4,125 in an online account. This money can only be used to take classes that will help to better prepare them for college.

Students can use the money from the program on a variety of class types to help with college. They can take courses in excess of their normal high school classes to help them graduate quicker. These courses can either be taken after school, during summer break or online. They can take dual credit courses, which is a college-level class taken by high school students that counts as a high school class and gives them college credit. These can be taken directly at a college, online, or by virtual conferencing. Lastly, students can use the money for a variety of college credits or professional technical exams like AP or CTE exams.

All interested students have to do is fill out a participation form at their school and that signs them up for an electronic account. Students are then given a list of courses at their high school or local college that they can take. If they are interested in any of them, they meet with their adviser to request money from their account to take the course or test.

How has the program done so far?

The Fast Forward program originally launched in 2015. At the time it was only open to students in their last two years of high school, between the ages of 16-18. That year, around 14,508 students used the program, and this year the Department of Education in Idaho expects more than 25,000 students to use it.

Over the summer and fall of 2016, students in the program spent $5.5 million on courses and exams. Idaho's legislature has also vowed to cover the program no matter the cost, even saying they would use the state's rainy day fund if they had to.