KLAMATH FALLS — For a collection of dedicated high school students in the Klamath Community College Accelerated Learning program, this week marks an accomplishment far more ambitious than solely receiving a high school diploma.
Ten high school students will receive an associate degree from KCC at the same time they collect their high school diploma, with an additional 19 students receiving Pathway Certificates. One student, Dayanara Chavolla-Villanueva, will be the first KCC student to graduate from a new Education-Paraeducator Pathway Certificate program.
In a partnership between KCC and participating high schools across Oregon, students as young as 15 may be approved for dual credit coursework. Paired with a KCC advisor and with additional support from Accelerated Learning program staff, students can earn college credits and if dedicated enough may accomplish what 10 students will do this Friday at KCC Commencement – collect their associate degree by the time they turn 18.
Students enrolled in Accelerated Learning can acclimate to the rigors of collegiate-level coursework while still in high school and move ahead of their peers for their higher education and career goals. Additionally, they are provided free bus transportation from participating high schools to the KCC campus, may instead take courses online, or utilize video synchronous classrooms. There is no charge for tuition for students in Klamath City and County school districts, and tuition is discounted elsewhere with school districts paying a portion of costs per credit plus applicable course fees.
For Brenna Morgan, a Klamath Falls homeschooled student who will receive her Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Management, Friday’s commencement is the culmination of a hard-earned goal. She plans to either enroll at Oregon Tech in the fall, or pursue a music degree at Southern Oregon University.
“I wanted to get an associate degree before I turned 18, I set that goal my junior year to do something bigger,” said Morgan. “It was a really good experience and really helped me prepare for the next step. It is exciting to start something early and get ahead of the curve, and it was also very cost-effective. At this rate I could graduate with a bachelor’s degree by the time I’m 19.”
Approximately 20 Accelerated Learning students are expected to participate in-person at KCC’s commencement. Most of these students will receive Pathway Certificates for Digital Media Design-Multimedia Design, while others will garner their Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT) degree. A total of 28 regional high schools from as far away as Albany and Yreka participated in KCC Accelerated Learning in the 2021-22 academic year, in total accumulating 9,073 credit hours for students. This equates to an estimated $1,005,214 in savings for students compared to taking these same regular courses post-high school.
“I had a friend that was in a program helping students graduate with their associate degree as a hybrid homeschool program, so that piqued my interest,” said Lillian Young, a senior at Crater High School, who like Morgan, will also collect her Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Management. “My mentor helped me get connected to KCC, I wanted to make the most of my time in high school so this blended nicely with clubs and classes at Crater. I even started a small business making jewelry before I started high school, now I feel very prepared.”
Young plans to attend George Fox University in the fall. She said balancing KCC coursework with high school classes and extra-curricular’s such as track and field and cross-country was difficult to manage, but attainable with support from Crater staff and KCC instructors.
“It is surreal knowing I have accomplished my goal, at the beginning people told me it was a high goal but that we could work to make it happen,” added Young. “Knowing I can go into next year with two years of college already done feels like a relief; now I can be more focused on business classes, it opens more opportunities for the future, and less college debt is a big relief.”
While the Accelerated Learning program is available as a viable option to start college early and reduce debt, Morgan noted it does not come without sacrifices.
“If you do pursue it, expect to sacrifice some of the normal high school social things because it is a lot of work,” said Morgan. “I missed out on some friend opportunities because I was working so hard, but KCC was so welcoming of me and made it possible to accomplish this big goal.”
The KCC Commencement Ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Friday, June 10, in-person on the KCC lawn and live-streamed at www.klamathcc.edu/watch-commencement. For more information about KCC Accelerated Learning visit www. klamathcc.edu