The Corvallis School District is starting a new program to enable high school students to take classes toward an associate or transfer degree at Linn-Benton Community College — while still earning credit toward high school graduation.
Students who start the program as high school sophomores potentially could earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school, completing their lower-division college credits and giving them a two-year head start in college.
In fact, the program is called “Running Start,” and it is similar to programs such as “Beyond LHS” at Lebanon High School, which also has partnered with LBCC.
Eric Wright, an assistant principal at Corvallis High School — who starts his new job as principal at the alternative College Hill High School in September — said the “Running Start” program can provide options for students who don’t fit into a traditional academic path.
“It’s an opportunity for more kids to get involved in post-secondary education while still of high school age,” he said.
The district will pay LBCC for the classes that students take, so the program is free for participants.
Wright said the program is cost neutral because the district will use the funds it receives to educate each student in the program to pay for their LBCC classes. Also, the district is hoping to bring in more state money by enrolling home-schooled students in the program and by keeping students enrolled who otherwise would drop out.
According to Wright, the program is not a line item in next year’s budget, but it will be the year after, when district staff have a better idea of what it will cost.
The program’s participants will follow an education program set up with district counselors. Wright said students could work toward an associate of arts degree, an Oregon transfer degree or even a certificate program.
“Some kids might also say ‘I really want to be a diesel mechanic,’ so they might take a 36-credit diesel mechanic program or something like that,” he said.
Wright said the program is a way to help meet the state’s 40-40-20 educational goal. The goal calls for every adult Oregonian to have a high school diploma by 2025, with 40 percent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and another 40 percent having an associate degree or post-high school training.
The program will be open to students at the district’s three high schools and home-schooled students, who have the option of earning a diploma instead of a GED through the program.
Wright said that so far about 30 families have expressed interest in the program, most of them from College Hill.
“I think it’s an opportunity for students who don’t really fit into the (traditional) high school world,” he said.
In addition, the program could help students make the transition from high school to college.
“There’s going to be a high school counselor in addition to someone from LBCC working with them, checking on their grades and attendance along the way to ease them into that college world,” he said.
Wright said the program also can help students defray some college costs.
Wright, who has been an assistant principal at Corvallis High School for the past seven years, said that in addition to being College Hill’s principal, he also will be the district’s “alternative pathways” coordinator next fall. The key in both of those positions will be to create additional opportunities for students to find a way to success.
“I want there to be an opportunity for every kid to earn a diploma and be ready when they are done with high school for whatever comes next.”
An informational meeting about the Running Start program is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Corvallis High School, 1400 N.W. Buchanan Ave.