Southern Oregon University’s early-entry program for high school students is picking up momentum as dwindling budgets limit the number of high school classes available.

Southern Oregon University’s early-entry program for high school students is picking up momentum as dwindling budgets limit the number of high school classes available.

Although college classes for high school students have always been an option, SOU had a 32 percent increase of early-entrance students last year and are expecting even more this year, said Carol Jensen, SOU director of pre-college and youth programs.

“It’s been in place for a while, but it’s gotten more popular as college tuition is going up and high school classes and opportunities are being cut,” Jensen said.

The program is available for high school juniors and seniors who have received approval from their counselors. The students are not allowed to take more than eight credits, or two classes, of 100- and 200-level courses, if there are openings after college students register. Students may need to take a placement test to enroll in a math or foreign language class.

While eight credits would cost a college student about $1,374, a high school student can take eight credits for $480, or $60 a credit — a 60 percent savings, said Jensen.

But saving money is hardly the primary motivator for most of the high school students who enroll.

“The kids that are opting to do this are really into school,” Jensen said.
“I’ve signed permission slips for about a dozen students (this summer),” said Don Valentini, assistant principal at Ashland High School.

Valentini said students often take college classes early in order to take a class not offered at the high school, to take a more advanced class, to see if they can manage college coursework or to get college credit.

Students also can earn college credit by taking advanced placement classes, but some more advanced classes such as Calculus 4 or specialized art and science classes can be found only at a college or university.

“Not every high school has art history, criminology or statistics,” Jensen said.
Calculus, Japanese, art classes and literature are among the most common classes high school students take at SOU, Jensen said.

Japanese is one of the 50 class selections dropped by Ashland High School because of budget cuts. Photography and computer programs were eliminated and the number of core classes such as math, English and science, music classes and vocational classes were trimmed, leaving fewer options for students.

“We still have a great selection here at Ashland High School,” Valentini said, while noting that getting into an advanced class is now more competitive.

Medford schools did not cut as many classes as Ashland, but “shrinking in our staffing collapsed some of the sections available,” said Doug Jantzi, director of secondary education for the Medford district.

Because of fewer teachers, classes such as Metals and Automotives have been cut, and students from South Medford High School must travel to North Medford High School in order to take an AP calculus class, Jantzi said.

He said a handful of students a year are so bright they whiz through the high school classes and begin taking classes at SOU or Rogue Community College early.

“It’s called a talented and gifted plan, if you will,” Jantzi said.

Although all high school students are free to enroll in SOU’s classes, Ashland High School has a higher percentage of students because of the shorter commute to the main campus.

High school students have until Sept. 28 to register for SOU classes.
“It gives them a chance to jump-start their education,” Jensen said.

Reach Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or intern1@mailtribune.com.