PEORIA — McKenna Myers doesn't want to spend four years in high school.
Instead, she wants to graduate early and get a move on toward an eventual pre-law degree.
To that end, the Richwoods High School senior has been taking dual-credit courses — fulfilling high school requirements while also taking college courses — and has three more on her schedule this fall.
She'll graduate early as part of her plan, continuing studies at Illinois Central College before transferring to a four-year school.
Those goals will become easier for her and for other teens around the state to fulfill under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Bruce Rauner at Richwoods, allowing students to take an unlimited number of dual credit classes.
"Now our students can get degrees earlier and at lower cost to their family," Rauner said in signing the legislation, handing off pens from the event to Myers and to Molly Palmer of Galesburg.
Palmer is a former school board member with one daughter who just graduated from high school and another attending. She raised the need to lift caps on dual-credit courses with state Sen. Chuck Weaver, and the Peoria Republican crafted the measure. It was sponsored in the House by Palmer's other legislator, Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha.
Such classes have a growing interest, Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said, noting a fourfold increase in students in the area's largest district taking the courses.
In the 2015-16, some 246 kids were signed up for dual-credit courses at Peoria schools. For the academic year PPS begins Wednesday, 1,194 intend to take them.
"We're working very hard to expand this opportunity vastly," she said.
There are higher expectations involved. But that's some of the inspiration for students.
"It's a challenge. It's not easy," Myers agreed of handling college coursework while still in high school. "But if you keep yourself at a very steady workload it's as easy as high school."
In responding to questions, Rauner said even in instances where kids may take classes and decide to take their studies in a different direction, it's a benefit to find out earlier — and at a lower cost — what might interest them
That was the case for Myers, who initially hadn't been sure which direction she wanted to take in her studies.
"I think it's a great way to knock out the gen-eds and have them at three times less the cost of university," she said.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2527, received unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@ChrisKaergard.