CORVALLIS - A new type of graduating class will earn bachelor's degrees this spring from Oregon State University - the first group of students who took advantage of the innovative "dual enrollment" plan that OSU has set up with several community colleges around the state.
This initiative has created an easy and seamless transition from community colleges to a four-year university --- or even back and forth --- that allows students to control their educational costs and optimize their curriculum with much less hassle or bureaucracy.
"This program is much more than just an easier way to continue your education," said Bob Bontrager, director of admission and orientation at OSU. "Students can move back and forth between schools to meet their needs, get improved advising about their education and career options, and do all this while the schools take care of the administrative complexities."
This June, 52 graduating students at OSU will have participated in the dual enrollment programs, and 11 more will graduate after summer term. Dual enrollment agreements have already been set up between OSU and Linn-Benton Community College; Southwestern Oregon Community College; Central Oregon Community College; and by far the largest such institution in the state, Portland Community College. There are more than 800 students enrolled in these programs.
The concept is proving so successful and valuable to students, Bontrager said, that it should continue to expand with other, perhaps eventually all, of the state's community colleges.
"The interest among PCC students in Portland is just exploding," Bontrager said. "It takes a year or two sometimes before people really become aware of all the benefits of this educational approach, but now on some days the PCC officials are getting 20-30 inquiries a day about the program."
Program participants are giving it solid reviews.
"I loved this program, I think it's great," said Sarah Harrison, 22, of Springfield, Ore., who will graduate this June with a bachelor's degree in human development and family sciences. She hopes to pursue a career in social work or perhaps family law.
"For me what made such a difference was the scheduling convenience," Harrison said. "I work full time, so I was able to take many of my courses as evening classes from LBCC. They have a lot of very interesting elective courses and this really expands your options."
It is easy to sign up for the program, according to Bontrager. Students can apply for admission to a participating community college and OSU with a single application and pay a single fee. Then, the collaborating educational institutions help to coordinate financial aid, registration, curriculum and seamless transfers from one institution to the other. The entire curriculum of both OSU and the participating community college is available to the student.
"There are a lot of little benefits that in the long run can be quite important," Bontrager said. "For instance, our advisers go more frequently to the community colleges with which we have dual enrollment agreements, and we can meet with students much earlier to discuss their coursework and interests. Our advisers might be able to point out career options that will be available to the student at OSU that they may not have considered."
The success of the program, Bontrager said, has no doubt been one of the many factors that has contributed to OSU's rapidly growing student enrollment. And as more community colleges are signed up, that trend should only increase, he said. Right now, the only thing slowing the growth of the initiative is the complexity of working out all the details with multiple institutions, which have many different procedures, routines and regulations. Anyone interested in getting more information about the programs or wishing to apply can contact OSU at 541-737-4411, or on the web at www.osu.orst.edu.
Another satisfied participant in this year's graduating class is Nicholas Filker of Corvallis, who will receive a bachelor's degree in marketing. "For me, part of the value of the program was economic. Altogether I took about two term's worth of classes from LBCC, which gave me the course credits I needed at a lower cost," Filker said. "Now I'm considering an internship, and perhaps eventual employment, with the marketing department of the Portland Trail Blazers."