Starting this fall, qualified Ashland High School students will be able to earn up to 44 credits at Southern Oregon University for a bargain $2,200 — about 38 percent of the cost of a year of tuition and fees at SOU. Called SOU High School Scholars, the new program will admit high-achieving, socially mature groups of high school students who will be taking the same classes in the late afternoon slot, said Michelle Zundel, director of educational services for the Ashland School District.

Starting this fall, qualified Ashland High School students will be able to earn up to 44 credits at Southern Oregon University for a bargain $2,200 — about 38 percent of the cost of a year of tuition and fees at SOU. Called SOU High School Scholars, the new program will admit high-achieving, socially mature groups of high school students who will be taking the same classes in the late afternoon slot, said Michelle Zundel, director of educational services for the Ashland School District.

The students will have to buy textbooks, and no financial aid is available for the program.

Parents of 10th-graders are being invited by mail to enroll their children this fall, with applications and details at www.ashland.k12.or.us/sou.

Students for years have been able to earn college credit while in high school through Advanced Placement classes or a program called Early Entry, in which qualified students choose SOU classes as they wished.

But the new program is the first to enroll groups of high school students in the same class — a University Seminar class — where, in the first year, they will study a mixture of writing and communication skills to better prepare them for university work, said Carol Jensen, SOU director of pre-college education.

Combined with Early Entry classes, which cost $25 to $30 a credit, high school students should be able to get their freshman year of college done and paid for, at a cost of $2,200, by the time they graduate from high school, she said.

SOU students now pay $5,715 in tuition and fees a year. The new program, which extends over two years, is 38 percent of that.

"It's an incredible bargain and a great boon for students and parents in this economy," said Zundel. "They need to be good educational consumers and sign up for college credit every way they can."

Students for years have been able to get free college credit from Rogue Community College for certain high school classes that match its syllabus.

The new program is being considered for Medford high schools, Jensen said. It's intended for students who are very motivated, perform above grade level, have high assessment scores, show excellent writing and communication skills, do independent learning, have strong self-advocacy skills and no disciplinary infractions.

The High School Scholar credits will "transfer easily" to any state school in Oregon, but out-of-state private universities determine what they will accept on an individual basis, said AHS counselor Steve Smith.

He said the AHS cohort at SOU will be 15 to 20 students and will have regular college students in the class.

Applications are due to the Main Office by 4 p.m. April 13. To apply, contact Zundel at 482-1611, ext. 173, or at michelle.zundel@ashland.k12.or.us.

For more information, visit www.sou.edu/youth/early_entry.