Starting College in a High School Classroom

Dec. 1, 2022

COCC’s College Now program gives high school students a jump on their future with low-cost, career-sampling college credits

In his criminal justice course at La Pine High School, Lucas Taroli takes his students on a broad journey of the law. They cover topics of due process and citizen rights, unpack current high-profile cases, and meet with members of law enforcement. In addition to hearing from visiting speakers like the Deschutes County district attorney, the class even visits the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution to interview inmates and tour the facility.

“My goal is to show my students the many career opportunities within the criminal justice world,” said Taroli. It’s a high-level experience for high schoolers, perhaps more aligned with a college-caliber class. Which, in fact, it is.

Taroli’s class is part of Central Oregon Community College’s (COCC) College Now program, an inexpensive and accessible way for high school students to earn college credit from the comfort of their own classroom. With the same rigor and course outcomes as on-campus college classes, College Now serves to scaffold the connection between high school and higher education, making the step more attainable.

Classes are taught by approved high school instructors who receive mentorship from COCC faculty within the discipline. The cost is $25 per credit, a fraction of COCC’s current in-district tuition rate of $113 per credit.

The partnership is currently connected with 23 high schools across (and beyond) the district, with many schools offering multiple College Now courses. Some are geared toward transfer degree requirements, for bachelor’s degrees and beyond, while others are connected to career and technical education programs.

“College Now is a way to explore areas of interest, build confidence and get a jump start on college coursework,” said COCC’s Krissa Harris, coordinator of the program. “We have 672 Central Oregon high school students participating in the College Now program so far this year.”

Options on the varied course list include U.S. history at Sisters High School, intro to education at Bend High School and personal finance at Crook County High School. Most classes are three or four credits and typically open to juniors and seniors.

Supporting the educational mission of regional high schools has long been a priority of COCC. By offering access to coursework and credits, and by helping spark interests and steering ambitions, the college lays tracks for higher learning. It empowers students, helps make attaining a college degree more affordable, and perhaps even reaffirms a student’s passion for a subject or a vocation. From his La Pine classroom, Taroli has seen how those early college seeds become career starters. “I have many former students who work for Bend PD and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office,” he shared.

In a recent computer information systems class at Bend’s Summit High School, students carefully disassembled desktop computers under the direction of instructor Kathie Quick. The hands-on experience — followed by a reassembling of the hardware, and then downloading software and troubleshooting common tech issues — is designed to gear them up for success in higher ed.

It is such a great resource for our students,” Quick said of College Now’s impact. “A majority of my students are going to continue on to higher education opportunities in a variety of fields. A few will continue on in the computer information field.”

In fact, of those who participate in the College Now program, some 75-80% will pursue higher education, at COCC or elsewhere, within one year of high school graduation.

Quick’s course is one of 10 new College Now selections, with others including a manufacturing course at Caldera High School and a human biology course at Mountain View. “We are working on new offerings all the time,” said Harris, pointing to opportunities for exploration, growth and accelerated learning as the curriculum’s guiding principles. “Whether a student is planning to ultimately transfer to a four-year institution, dive into a career and technical education program or pursue the world of skilled trades, COCC wants to be there to support them in their own high schools.”

Visit for available course options and further details or call 541-504-2930.

By Mark Russell Johnson, COCC Staff Writer

College Now