TWIN FALLS • When Canyon Ridge High senior Raven Oesterlein signed up to take an American Sign Language class, her goal wasn’t just to get a jump start on college. She wanted to explore a topic that sparked her interest.

“I only take classes that interest me,” she said about dual credit.

ASL is the only dual-credit class Oesterlein is taking this semester, taught by a professor from the College of Southern Idaho. She took a psychology class during a past semester.

Once she graduates from high school, Oesterlein wants to go to college out of the area and earn a degree in social work. She has a tryout in January for the soccer team at an all-women’s college in South Carolina and hopes to earn a scholarship.

Oesterlein is one of a growing number of high school students getting a jump start on college by taking dual-credit classes, with numbers at an all-time high this semester. The dual-credit format allows them to earn high school and college credit simultaneously.

“Our growth isn’t just this year,” Instructional Dean John Miller said. “It’s been a pretty steady upward climb for the last four years now.”

Around the state, 1,853 high schoolers are taking a total of 6,907 credits of dual-credit classes through CSI. That’s up about 250 students over last semester.

Canyon Ridge High senior Karen Feng said she likes dual-credit classes because the information is more interesting.

“I think dual credit is a lot more fun than regular classes,” she said.

Feng has her sights set on going into biomedical engineering. Her interest was sparked after job shadowing a dermatologist and seeing how the lab side of the job works.

Feng’s first choice for college is Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

This semester, Feng is taking government and calculus classes through CSI. And by the time she graduates this spring, Feng will have more than 20 college credits.

She’s not alone. It’s common for area teenagers to have a semester’s worth of college credits — or more — by the time they graduate from high school.

Miller said it’s doable for students without interfering with their other activities.

“We’re actually seeing more students taking multiple classes than in the past,” he said.

CSI has students enrolled in dual-credit classes from 63 high schools around the state. Miller said some of those schools hadn’t collaborated with the college in the past.

“They felt it was the right thing to do to give students more opportunities,” Miller said.

For school districts, it’s a way to expand the number of classes available to students without the financial burden.

Some dual-credit classes are led by high school teachers who have been approved as instructors. Or college professors go to high schools to teach classes.

In other cases, students take college classes via live video conferencing through the Idaho Education Network or online.

When it comes to paying for college credits, high schoolers have an advantage over traditional college students. High school students pay $65 per credit for dual-credit classes. That’s less than what in-district, part-time CSI students pay — $110 per credit.

Some high schools — such as Canyon Ridge — use grant funding to award scholarships to help students pay for dual-credit classes.

Miller said dual-credit classes are beneficial and he expects continual growth in the number of students getting a jump start on college.

“In my mind, it just makes so much sense,” he said.

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