Some Oregon students are signing up for a fifth year of high school — that’s really a first year of community college. The state pays the district about “$6,500 per student, and the district in turn uses the money to pay for three terms of community college tuition, fees and books,” reports the Oregonian.

Students get a year of college for free. The district ends up with enough funding to hire a counselor to help students handle the transition.

The idea is that by easing students’ transition and making the first year free, high schools get more students to try college and more to stick with it, said Frank Caropelo, assistant superintendent of Greater Albany Schools, which launched the program in partnership with Linn-Benton Community College this school year.

“That is moving the dial on 40-40-20,” the state’s goal of having 40 percent of young adults earn four-year degrees and another 40 percent earn two-year degrees or industry-recognized credentials, Caropelo said.

Nursing is a popular field, said coordinator Danielle Blackwell. “We’ve got some (aspiring) engineers. We’ve got a ton that want to do chemistry or biology and some that want to do journalism. We’ve got some who are passionate about art or music, but they’re wondering that they are going to do with that. Some of them are deciding to minor in the arts but study business and merchandising.”

Chemeketa Community College has partnered with schools in Dallas, Oregon for seven years. Many first-generation students sign up, said Brian Green, assistant principal at Dallas High. More than three-fourths complete a full year of community college, he said.

It’s a great way to ease 17- and 18-year-olds into college, writes Rebecca Schuman on Slate.  “It’s worth considering making the 13th grade standard, not just for students on the vocational, technical, or community college track, but for the four-year-college-bounds as well. The fact is, many American students enter college woefully unprepared.”