SALEM — The Oregon Legislature is looking at making college students out of every Oregon high school student.
A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would require college coursework as a condition of graduating from high school. The move would increase the number of students going to college, make their degrees more affordable and encourage students not considering college to continue in higher education, said Sen. Mark Hass, a Beaverton Democrat who is the bill’s chief sponsor.
“It represents a great play on college affordability if someone can come out of Roseburg High School with 40 credits,” Hass said Tuesday at a committee hearing for the measure. “That student saves thousands of dollars for himself and his family on the cost of a bachelor’s degree. Not only that, it helps those students have a much more productive career while they’re in high school.”
Critics say students shouldn’t be forced to take college courses if they’re not interested. Every student should have access to college-level courses if they want them, said Margaret DeLacy, a board member at the Oregon Association for Talented and Gifted, but not all students will want to.
“We believe that students are individuals and each student’s needs should be addressed as flexibly as possible,” DeLacy told lawmakers.
The effort illustrates an enduring tension in education as the Legislature tries to improve the quality of schools while facing severe funding shortfalls.
The current draft of Senate Bill 222 would require college credit for six of the 24 high school classes required to earn a diploma, starting with the class of 2020. It also would provide a yet-to-be-determined amount of money to help teachers get the necessary training to teach advanced-level classes.
The bill is likely to change substantially before going before the full Senate, Hass said, and the mandate for college credits could eventually be watered down or removed. But he said he’s committed to creating powerful incentives for high schools to boost the number of students earning college credits.
Last school year, more than 25,000 Oregon high school students took dual-enrollment classes, which are taught by high-school teachers and result in simultaneous credit toward high-school and college graduation requirements.