NORTH BEND — More and more high school students are taking college courses before they graduate.
At North Bend High School, administration has seen an increase by 30 percent in dual enrollment this year.
“We’re seeing an increase in the number of students who are dual enrolled and an increase in the number of credits they are taking as they map out a plan with the pathways coordinator from Southwestern Oregon Community College,” said NBHS Principal Darrell Johnston.
Since the new school year began, 26 NBHS students are taking 39 classes through SWOCC, which is a total of 139 credits.
“There’s a lot of debate if kids should be pushed vertically forward, or if we should give every opportunity to students in post-secondary education,” Johnston said. “This allows our at-risk kids to get associate’s degrees on the state’s dime, something they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.”
As Johnston explained it, there are three models in Oregon through the Expanded Options Program, which allows high schoolers to also earn college credit.
“One way is for students to actually go to the local community college,” Johnston said. “They take classes and we pay the fees and supply the books.”
The second way students can participate in the program is for the local community college to send an instructor to the high school, which has previously been done at NBHS for medical courses and fire trades.
“The third model for students is the one that has the largest impact,” Johnston said. “It is where students take classes from our high school teachers who are certified to teach college under the supervision of college instructors. Over half of our staff is qualified, but right now we have eight teachers actively teaching dual enrollment.”
Johnston credited SWOCC’s pathways coordinator, Kyle Helland, for helping facilitate the record number of dual enrollments at the high school.
“Even if these students don’t pursue a career they trained for, the rigor they experienced at the college level helps prepare them for challenges after high school in a greater way,” he said.
The Expanded Options Program is funded by the state through the school districts in the general fund. Helping these students manage the usual high school course load alongside college classes is what Johnston called the remediation period. During that half-hour during the day, kids can go to a teacher for help in either their normal classes or ones through SWOCC.
Right now at NBHS, four students are taking a full load of college credits. Though this is hard work, Johnston said it is normal for NBHS to see anywhere from two to four students graduate not only with their high school diploma, but an associate degree as well as a result of their dedication.
“This is a great program because imagine a student who comes from a family who could not support them in college, but this way they can get ahead,” Johnston said. “Many other states do not offer this opportunity for students.”