UO professors’ furlough day classes offer big assist to area schools
The situation was dire for local schools in 2010.
The Eugene School Board had proposed a budget that incorporated $22 million in cuts, closure of four elementary schools and layoffs for about 100 employees. Class sizes were set to increase, and employees in the Eugene, Bethel and Springfield school districts accepted furlough days as a means of minimizing layoffs.
One of the shortest school years on record was scheduled for the local districts.
A group of University of Oregon faculty thought they could help, and proposed filling some of the holes caused by budget cuts with voluntary, advanced-placement classes taught at the UO.
“A bunch of volunteer instructors thought we could really help with the high school level if we were to offer AP-type classes at the college,” said Tom Lininger, a professor and associate dean for faculty development at the UO School of Law. “We figured if we volunteered, we could offer them at next to nothing, and then that way give the kids something to do when local schools aren’t in session and hopefully lend a hand to the local K-12 education system.”
Lininger and fellow UO professors Jane Cramer (political science), Chris Doe (biology) and Neil Bania and Laura Leete (planning, public policy and management) saw that local students were losing many opportunities for AP coursework. They also sensed an opportunity to make college-level courses more accessible to students whose parents did not attend college, or who may have believed college was out of reach.
“We did a lot of outreach to let schools know, especially in areas where a lower percentage of kids were going to college that we had an opportunity where students could take four-credit courses for $60,” said Lininger, who holds an Orlando J. and Marian H. Hollis professorship.
To get the University of Oregon Classes for High School Students Program up and running, Lininger enlisted the help of UO Academic Extension office staffers Curt Lind, Stephanie Marple, Sonya Faust and Sandra Gladney to act as the administrative force behind the program.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re the real heroes of the story,” said Lininger. “The step, the most important one, was making this work administratively.”
Academic Extension provides administrative support, including registration, course creation and hosting and maintaining the UOCHSS webpage. Together, Academic Extension and the volunteer instructors created a separate set of courses for which only high school students can register.
Classes in the UO program began last fall and are scheduled to continue through summer 2013. Two classes per term are offered year-around on furlough days, in-service days, half-days and Sundays, with enrollment capped at 22 students per class. Students are selected based on a lottery system, with first priority going to seniors, then juniors and so on, depending on the grading process the applicants choose.
Classes offered are based on AP material, which provides the students with courses that will prepare them for college and tests that would help with college admissions. Some of the classes available include economics, political science, history and chemistry.
Another resource that benefited the UOCHSS Program was a grant from the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, which awarded the program a $2,000 grant in its first year and a $1,000 grant this school year. The grants bought books for students who are on free- and reduced-lunch plans and demonstrate financial need, as well as providing those students with enough money to pay tuition.
To Lininger, the biggest accomplishment for the program is the diversity of students from Eugene-area schools – ethnic and financial diversity – as well as first-time college students.
“We have students in our program who have no one in their homes who have been to college and it gives them a vantage point to judge whether college is a good fit,” he said. “I’m happy to say almost all of them have finished our courses and seem interested in coming to a college, sometimes the UO. It’s been successful as far as we can tell.”
-- by Rachel Staff, UO media relations intern