McNary students to benefit from $1.5 million Chemeketa Community College grant

McNary High School (FILE PHOTO/ Keizertimes)

McNary students will directly benefit from a $1.54 million grant Chemeketa Community College received earlier this month to increase dual enrollment accessibility for underrepresented student groups. 

“Chemeketa’s dual enrollment program opens the world of college-going to hundreds of high school students each year,” said Jessica Howard, Chemeketa’s president, in a written statement. “With this grant, we will be able to extend that opportunity to more students, particularly those in rural areas and those who have faced barriers due to historic marginalization. The grant funds courses, teacher training, technology and college advising to increase the number of students completing college.”

Chemeketa’s College Credit Now department allows high school students to begin earning college credit before graduation and for a fraction of the cost. For $30 a year, students can take classes at their high school, taught by certified teachers, and earn both high school and college credit. 

“Many of our students graduate with almost enough credits to complete their first year of college because of the classes they take,” said Rochelle Farris, who served as McNary’s college and career advisor for five years. “It reduces the amount that they are going to have to pay for an associate or bachelor’s degree by a significant amount.”

163 students from McNary participated in Chemeketa’s dual enrollment program last year, taking a combined 1,812 dual enrollment credits and saving $169,877 compared to what the class would cost at Chemeketa. 

In total, Chemeketa’s College Credit Now department saved 1,682 Oregon high school students a combined $1.27 million last year. 

Sara Hastings, Chemeketa’s dean of high school partnerships, said that with the grant, the college hopes “to focus on identifying gaps at the schools that we serve where certain students aren’t participating in dual enrollment programs.”

One group at McNary that Farris mentioned the grant could help was first generation students that may not be aware of the opportunities available to them. 

“When you’re a first generation student, and you don’t have people around you that know the process, a lot of times they can fall through the cracks,” said Farris. “Having these additional positions that want to serve this type of community, and having a representative at each school, is absolutely essential to getting students to college.”

Hastings said the college has identified the areas the grant will work to improve and will begin focusing on expanding opportunities for high school student in the 2021-22 school year.

The college was scheduled to update the Salem-Keizer School Board on this grant and other partnerships at the Aug. 24 meeting, which was cancelled due to safety concerns.

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.