Montana State University Billings has its first verbal commitment from a Lewis and Clark Middle School student.
Julie Hrubes, of New Student Services at MSUB, led her tour of eighth-graders through the MSUB Bookstore on Friday afternoon, pointing out the textbooks, the apparel and the convenience store.
"Yes, it's got the all-you-can-pump-cheese machine for your nachos," she told the group.
"All-you-can-pump cheese?" exclaimed one of the students. "I'm coming here!"
The Lewis and Clark students toured most of the MSUB campus as part of the state's Graduation Matters initiative. School District 2 recently received a $5,000 Graduation Matters grant from the Montana Office of Public Instruction aimed specifically at middle school students.
Part of the grant is being used to transport SD2 middle school students to the campuses of MSUB, City College or Rocky Mountain College. On campus, the students tour the facilities and learn about college life and what post-secondary education opportunities are available to them.
Eventually, every eighth-grader in the district will get a chance to tour a local college.
"I like it," said Emma Webber, a Lewis and Clark eighth grader.
She and classmate Mikayla Stowe both plan to attend college and enjoyed seeing the dorms, lecture halls and the fieldhouse.
"I've wanted to see this college 'cause my parents went here," Mikayla said.
Still, it wasn't quite enough to convince them to attend MSUB. Both want to try living a little farther from home. Although both acknowledged that would be more expensive.
Teacher Sheila Gay accompanied the group. When they returned to class in the afternoon she planned to assign her students write a paragraph about what they learned on the tour.
Mostly, she said, the students come back surprised at all that's available to college students — everything from the various classes to rec room offerings.
She also noticed over the last three or four years her students have begun to pay more attention to the college option as the economy has gotten shaky.
"A lot of them are more like, 'What do I need to do to get to college,'" she said.
Hrubes explained that in many ways college is completely different from high school — or middle school for that matter.
Students don't attend the same classes every day. Students get to chose what time they'll take their classes and the classes get smaller the further along students get in their major.
Standing in the psychology 101 lecture hall, one of the Lewis and Clark students asked if the teachers make you take notes.
"No one makes you do anything in college," Hrubes said.