College Head Start


Earn College Credits in High School

By Jahana Martin, SREB

Learn more about the High School of Business program in this video.Many students enter high school with the dream of going to college. But students at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly, Iowa, get a head start on their collegiate careers because they can start earning college credits while in high school.

The school offers opportunities for students to learn business skills while earning college credit by using High School of Business, a program from the MBA Research & Curriculum Center in Columbus, Ohio, a not-for-profit organization that provides resources for business and marketing educators.

Photo of Laurie UrichThe High School of Business curriculum uses project-based learning, accelerated content and a business classroom experience that positions students for future success by stressing teamwork and interaction with the business community.

“The High School of Business curriculum was designed with college credit in mind,” says Laurie Urich, program director of MBA Research & Curriculum Center.

In designing the curriculum, MBA Research reviewed college syllabi and business and industry needs to determine what courses needed to contain. “We wanted to make it easy for schools to work with colleges on dual credit agreements,” she says.

According to Ken Burrow, a business teacher at Waverly-Shell Rock High School, High School of Business is a great fit.

The six courses provide a foundation in business, including principles of business, economics, marketing, finance, management and business strategies and entrepreneurship. Classes are led by business and industry professionals and consist of either multiple projects or one project that spans a whole semester.

Photo of Ken BurrowBurrow says some students have graduated with 15 college credits. “We have found that our students are better prepared for college. They’re better prepared for the workplace. They develop great community connections, and the parents can see the results and get excited about the program.”

 Connect With Colleges

To help students make smooth transitions to college, the team at Waverly-Shell Rock High School connected with leaders of the business school at nearby Hawkeye Community College. After describing the High School of Business curriculum and discussing performance indicators and learning outcomes, the Waverly-Shell Rock team and college leaders found that four High School of Business courses were a close match to Hawkeye courses, making it easy to add opportunities for students to earn dual credit at the community college.

High School of Business students also explore how to start their own businesses through an entrepreneurship program at the University of Iowa called Biz Innovator. With Biz Innovator, students can earn college credits in courses offered by teachers trained in the Biz Innovator model. However, this is not a dual credit program. “Students must pass a test at the end of the course and can earn three college credits and pay for the courses at a reduced rate,” Burrow explained.

“Make the Most of It”

In the High School of Business economics course, one of the six projects students complete is called “Make the Most of It.” The project’s goal is for students to find the best use for a vacant lot in a specific location. Learning outcomes include building innovation skills, identifying opportunity costs and using decision matrices. At a project opening kick-off event, guest speakers like real estate agents or economic development or planning and zoning leaders talk to students about zoning requirements and community needs. Students get excited about the project when they hear from local leaders, like Waverly’s director of economic development, who has visited Burrow’s class for the past few years.

Students visit the vacant lot in person or virtually and receive a statement of work that describes the project objective, time frame and deliverables. Then the class is divided into groups, with each group creating a contract to define their roles and responsibilities, a project plan to guide their team and a set of bylaws. Each group then creates a decision matrix they’ll use to write their proposals and a final presentation they make to the same guest speaker who kicked off the course.

“It is a team paper, and they share the responsibility,” Burrow says. Students are also required to dress professionally during team presentations. “I believe there are between 15 and 20 times… during the three years in the program [that kids] will get up in front of someone and present, so they really get a good basis for great public speaking skills as they move through this,” Burrow explains. “This going to help them in the long run not only in their schooling but in the workplace as well.” 

 The Coffee Shop

While working on a project to market the High School of Business program, Burrow’s students shared in a survey that they would really enjoy running a business — a student store specifically.

That was the impetus of the school’s coffee shop, which started with one table, one coffee machine and a once-a-day coffee delivery. The coffee shop now features a permanent counter with coffee machines and drink refrigerators.

Photo of coffee shop

Students get experience running a business and learning problem-solving skills. “One class gets to run the store every year. The next year, the next class takes it over and decides how they want to run it and how they want to improve it,” Burrow says.

Student Success

“The curriculum is engaging and challenging,” says Sadie Hansen, a former High School of Business student at Waverly-Shell Rock High School.

In Hansen’s junior year, she discovered her passion for human resources while working in the student store as a human resources director. After graduating from high school with 15 college credits, she attended her local community college and completed its human resources program in just one year. After earning her associate degree, she then transferred to a university and secured a job as a full-time human resources associate while still in college.

“Last year, on average, a student completing the High School of Business program graduated from high school with 9.5 credits earned because of their participation in this program,” says Urich. At Waverly-Shell Rock High School, Burrow says students usually receive 12 hours of dual credit with Hawkeye Community College and three potential credits through the University of Iowa Biz Innovator program.

Waverly-Shell Rock High School student data shared by the MBA Research & Curriculum Center shows that:

  • 92% of program participants are confident in succeeding in college
  • 93% believe participation will increase their ability to succeed in a career
  • 100% achieved state benchmarks in math and English language arts

Teacher data shows that:

  • 92% of teachers report improved relationships with the local business community
  • 71% of teachers improved relations with colleges and universities

Learn More at #SREBSummer

MBA Research & Curriculum Center staff will present and exhibit at the 2022 Making Schools Work Conference in Grapevine, Texas. Stop by Booth 309 in the Education Marketplace or attend session 1206 to chat with April Miller about High School of Business and MBA Research & Curriculum Center’s other curricular products and tools.

Contacts: Ken Burrow,; Laurie Urich,

This article was featured in the April 2022 issue of SREB School Improvement’s Promising Practices Newsletter.