With Ashland High School reducing classes amid budget cuts, Southern Oregon University is taking steps to ensure no student misses out on a quality education.

With Ashland High School reducing classes amid budget cuts, Southern Oregon University is taking steps to ensure no student misses out on a quality education.

SOU's early entry program offers the school's full list of introductory courses to area high school students. From calculus to communication, AHS students can choose any 100- or 200-level course the school offers.

In addition to those courses, the university will now be offering a freshman introductory course, designed to help students understand what to expect when they go to college. The University Seminar, as it is called, will be a year long, allowing high school students to mix with SOU freshmen.

Between 30 and 40 students took advantage of the early entry program last year, says SOU Pre-College and Youth Programs Director Carol Jensen.

"This program has been going on a long time," Jensen said. "With the high school having to cut their curriculum to meet budgetary needs, this is a very good option."

The program is not for everyone. High school students must be approved by their school councilors before enrolling. Students must also be able to ensure their college courses do not pose a time conflict with mandatory classes at AHS. Primarily utilized by students familiar with Advanced Placement and college preparatory courses, the program is nonetheless available to any students able to take them.

"It is for those who are capable and mature enough to take a college class in a campus environment," Jensen said.

Once signed up, students will be fully enrolled in the college courses, most of which are four credits. High school students will be charged $60 per credit, and can take up to eight credits each term.

"Four credit classes for regular students typically cost $677," Jensen said. "At this rate, a four credit class will cost $240." Students taking the maximum eight credits would pay $480, instead of $1,374. "That's quite a discount," Jensen said.

Though the early entry program has been offered by SOU for more than a decade, Jensen said the freshman introductory class is a direct response to the reductions at AHS. She said the university considers it an obligation to offer as many opportunities for a higher education as possible.

Once the course is complete, the credits will be placed on a student's college transcript, while they are still in high school.

"These courses will count toward a degree," Jensen said, "and can be transferred to any school just as they would for an SOU student." The program is a large part of the university's effort to promote education at all levels, and to better prepare students for life as a college student.

"I think it helps them get familiar with the campus, and what college classes are like," she said. "They get a feel for the pace of things. It's a good way for them to test the waters."