Eastern Promise is creating a college culture
Years ago, a high school diploma was your ticket to a decent blue-collar job that paid well enough to support a family. A associate degree from a community college gave you even more options, and a bachelor’s degree put you on the road to prosperity.
Now, a high school diploma or GED certificate doesn’t open many doors. An associate degree is the bare minimum requirement for many family-wage jobs. Those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees have many more opportunities available to them.
The Eastern Promise program recognizes this new reality.
A partnership between Eastern Oregon University, Blue Mountain and Treasure Valley Community Colleges, the InterMountain Education Service District and more than 30 school districts in eastern Oregon, Eastern Promise gets students and their families thinking about college starting in fifth grade, and reinforces college planning and academic excellence throughout middle school. All high school freshman will take a “Success 101” class, using a proven curriculum to develop a 10-year academic plan for themselves. Students earn three college credits when they complete this course — a jump-start for those who will go on to earn more college credits while still in high school.
When college-bound students take college-level courses in high school, the cost is just $10 per credit. Up to 75 percent of the credits needed for an associate degree can be completed in high school, which can translate to savings of thousands of dollars. Some students — such as Robyn Frye of Hermiston — have enough credits from high school to enter a four-year university as juniors.
Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden and the Oregon Department of Education recognize that Eastern Promise is a successful pilot program that should be replicated throughout the state. This spring, the DOE will award two or three $465,000-$650,000 grants to other groups in the state who will use Eastern Promise as a model.
Whether or not Eastern Promise can truly be replicated remains to be seen.
This program requires significant collaboration, ongoing communication and trust between a four-year university, community colleges, education service districts and school districts. Educators at EOU, BMCC, TVCC, the InterMountain ESD and 33 school districts in eastern Oregon have been working together since 2011 to establish the curriculum and proficiency assessments for students. Some high school teachers are now teaching college-level courses. It’s taken a lot of work, and it is paying off.
Oregon’s goal of 40/40/20 — 40 percent of students earning a degree from a four-year university, 40 percent with an associate degree, and 20 percent earning a high school diploma or equivalent by 2025 — is a stretch goal for most school districts in Oregon.
Eastern Promise is a step in the right direction toward instilling the idea of going to college in all students, supporting them to get there and keeping it affordable. It’s a model worthy of replication throughout the state.
This editorial originally appeared in the March 1, 2014, edition of the East Oregonian. It has been posted to this website with permission from the East Oregonian.