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Middle College expansion opportunities abound for second freshman class

Story by Abe Proctor. Video by James G. Hill.

Portland Community College’s Middle College partnership with Portland Public Schools is gearing up for the second freshman class of the program’s expanded era. Next fall’s incoming freshmen will have the opportunity to learn more about the innovative program at a series of information nights in January and February.

The information nights are scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Jan. 11 and 25; and Feb. 15 and 22, in the Jefferson High School Cafeteria, 5210 N. Kerby Ave.

“We’re tremendously excited to welcome the Class of 2016 to the Middle College partnership,” said Algie Gatewood, president of PCC’s Cascade Campus. “Every new freshman class that enters the Middle College means that more young people will be able to enjoy the hope and opportunity offered by this program.”

The Middle College program enables Jefferson students to take college courses – and earn college credit – at the nearby Cascade Campus while they’re still enrolled in high school. Prior to the fall of 2011, the program enrolled students on an opt-in basis. Last fall, however, the program expanded to include every incoming Jefferson freshman.

Officially rechristened as the Jefferson High School – Middle College for Advanced Studies, the expanded program offers students the opportunity to graduate from high school having already earned between 12 and 45 college credits. More ambitious students can earn as much as an Associate’s degree or a professional certificate. Priority registration is offered to students from Jefferson’s catchment area, but students who would otherwise attend other PPS high schools may apply as well.

The Middle College has proven effective at helping students from underrepresented backgrounds to successfully complete high school – 98 percent of Middle College students graduate from high school, compared to a statewide graduation rate of 66 percent. The program also helps students to bridge the gap between high school and college; some 72 percent of students continue their collegiate studies during the fall following high school graduation, compared to 48 percent of students statewide.

Students’ post-secondary opportunities are further enhanced by the growing Middle College scholarship partnership. The University of Oregon and Warner Pacific College now offer generous scholarship opportunities to Pell Grant-eligible Middle College students. Several other area four-year colleges and universities as well as local businesses are in the final stages of developing their own scholarship packages, which will be announced shortly.

“These scholarships are really the missing piece of the puzzle,” Gatewood said. “The Middle College program exposes students to the world of higher education and helps them to believe that they belong in college. The scholarships help create a seamless path from high school to a baccalaureate degree and beyond.

“I really can’t think of a better way to extend hope and opportunity to the young people of this community,” he added.