The 10 students in Tom Spoo's metals and welding class at Hermiston High School must work hard if they want that college credit.

More students in the area are taking more classes than ever before in high school that also earn college credit.

That means more students are learning the value of college credit for their futures, but it also means they'll learn at the same pace and rigor as their older Blue Mountain Community College counterparts.

"It's not easy," Spoo said.

The Dual Credit Program between BMCC and 11 area high schools is growing quickly with the number of classes being offered at the high school level, and the number of students earning credit that will expedite their next steps into the work force.

Don Holes, the program's coordinator, said that students tend to take the classes in high school to get ahead in their college credit needs, to help advance them through any trade school or to help with whatever track they decide after college.

Last school year, 2,720 college credits were earned by high school students, Holes said. This year, in the first term alone, 3,471 credits are expected to be earned.

Seniors, some juniors and other special cases in advanced-placement courses, such as English and biology, can sometimes earn college credits if the schools they are attending offer them. Other courses, like Spoo's metals and welding class, isn't necessarily advanced, but students must have an interest in it and have completed previous classes, Holes said.

No matter the level at which the class sits, all of the students involved in the Dual Credit Program must earn an A or B in the course to receive credit.

Once they do, they can transfer them to whatever educational institution they want, Holes said.

"This helps them work on their studying habits," Holes said.

Students in advanced classes may find the material they learn their freshman year of college to be repetitive, Holes said. If that's the case, then they could find themselves bored and fall into the "partying" or other poor study habits before they can get to the challenging material, he said.

Students also are taking the course to save a little money, Holes said. Students must pay $10 a credit, or $30 for a three-credit course.

The price is a steal compared to community colleges and four-year universities, Spoo said.

Because the course must meet college-level criteria set by BMCC instructors, BMCC also is able to add the number of students to its final student enrollment numbers, which helps generate money from the state, said Cynthia Hilden, the assistant dean of instruction at BMCC.

For more information about the Dual Credit Program, visit BMCC's Web site at www.bmcc.or.us under the heading, "Course List."

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Teri Meeuwsen is a reporter in the East Oregonian Hermiston Bureau. She can be reached at (800) 522-0255 (ext. 1302 after hours) or by e-mail tmeeuwsen@eastoregonian.com.

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