Have you ever passed by a student on campus and thought they looked like they were still in high school? Well, there’s a chance they are.
With help from a statewide program, many high school students are able to attend classes at Central Oregon Community College at no cost.
The Expanded Options Program, which was created through state legislation in 2005, allows eligible high school students to attend college courses free of charge, based on certain financial and academic requirements.
“It opens a lot of doors” said Vicki Van Buren, Executive Director of Secondary Programs for Bend-La Pine School District. “We know nationally that students who earn college credits in high school tend to persist in college and finish with degrees.”
To be eligible for the program students must be at least 16 years of age or have completed enough credits for junior or senior standing in high school, as well as present an approved education plan, according to the Oregon Department of Education.
“The district pays tuition,” Van Buren said, “that’s why student’s plans have to be authorized.”
The program is geared toward what is termed “at risk” students, giving enrollment priority to low income students and high-school dropouts, and covers all costs including textbooks, materials, and supplies.
“It’s a great deal for the students,” said Van Buren, “especially for first generation college students.”
Many high schoolers are taking advantage of this great deal.
“87 [Bend-La Pine] students completed at least one credit at COCC through the program last year,” said Van Buren. “This year 44 students are enrolled.”
One of these is 16 year old Bend High senior Kaylee Tornay, who is currently enrolled in Writing 240 at COCC.
“I took this class for fun,” said Tornay, who hopes to become a travel writer. “I just wanted to stay in practice.”
Tornay, who takes International Baccalaureate courses at her high school, is adjusting to a college campus.
“I was a little bit intimidated because I’m so much younger than everybody else,” said Tornay.
There are other challenges that students like Tornay face, such as schedule and transportation.
“I would love to take more classes,” said Tornay. “I’m not taking classes in winter because it conflicts with tennis.”
Despite these challenges, Vicki Van Buren sees the benefits given to high school students in the Extended Options Program and other accelerated learning programs.
“Some students are earning an associates degree by the time they graduate high school,” said Van Buren. “It’s good for families and education in general.”