Brandin Smith came within two classes of earning his diploma from Astoria High School and an associate’s degree from Clatsop Community College at the same time last year.

He took 82 college credits between his sophomore year and graduation day, spending most of his time at the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station (MERTS) and the college’s main campus.

Smith did all this through a simultaneous enrollment program offered through partnerships with high schools and CCC. High schools eliminated their dedicated classes at MERTS and on the main CCC campus, but the college, including its welding, automotive and seamanship programs at MERTS, still offers high school students wanting a head start a chance to earn dual credits.

“You’ve got to go to school anyway,” said Smith. “You might as well take classes at college and high school at the same time.”

Smith, who is now studying for a business degree and wants to be a telephone lineman, isn’t the norm, but rather an example of the financial and academic benefits two-for-one credits provide. Students must take a placement test to qualify for courses; earn at least a “C” grade; have the high school pay your tuition;  become a certified welder, auto mechanic, a seaman or finish some prerequisites.

Currently, 12 students from Warrenton and Astoria make the trip to MERTS each week, most working toward certification and a career.

“It’s the perfect match, so they’re ready to go when they get out of here,” said Lisa Nyberg, the college’s director of career counseling.


Forest Cumbess, a 19-year-old senior earning his GED from Warrenton High School, wants to be a professional welder, and wants to get it done quickly. Earning the first half of his two-year welding certificate while on Warrenton’s dime will cut his college costs in half.

He and fellow seniors Mitch Kemp and Tyler Thury, all from Warrenton, practice welding basics at MERTS’ Industrial and Manufacturing Technology Center, leaving on a bus to the campus as early as 7:30 a.m. and often missing lunch by the time they get back to campus. Back in “school,” they take more traditional prerequisites, including English, language arts, math and history.

CCC put them all through placement tests, multiple safety tutorials and shop etiquette courses before they even hold a torch. The requirements are strict:?miss five classes or earn lower than a “C” grade and you’ll get kicked out of the program and/or pay tuition, approximately $95 per credit.

“They don’t treat us like high school students,” Cumbess said.

Budget cuts often strike down courses in high school unassociated with state and national testing, leaving administrators to outsource long-lost electives. That need helped create such programs as simultaneous enrollment –  it helped the college help the high school.

“We do a lot more hands-on stuff here,” said Thury. “We’re not just sitting in a chair.

“We have nothing like this (at high school). There’s no shop.”

Welding instructor Jesse Fulton said he focuses on the basics with high school students: cutting with gas and plasma torches, grinding and other tutorials.

“It demonstrates to employers that they’re capable of welding,” he said.

The overarching goal at MERTS?is preparing students for employment in the near term. CCC offers a one-year certificate for entry-level welding.


In the next room over from welding, sits a garage full of cars – some running and others gutted – waiting for maintenance or a complete overhaul. Five high school students enrolled this fall to learn the basics of auto mechanics, working on vehicles donated or brought in for basic maintenance.

Automotive instructor Stephen Sanders said in the past he sometimes had disciplinary problems with all-high-school classes, often because not all the students wanted to learn mechanics.

“This year, they’re all on,” he said. “They’re here because they want this.”

Smith, ever the enigma, is also becoming a certified auto mechanic as a backup job, while pursuing a business degree.

“Shops pick up a lot of students from this program,” he said. “Out of 12 students, four of us have options in shops or are working in shops. It’s a program that sets you up for a job.”

Smith also logged 300 shop hours working for Warrenton Kia his junior year of high school.

For the beginners, Sanders focuses on basic maintenance, teaching students how to jack up cars, rotate tires and precision measure. In following terms, he digs deeper into engines, electrical systems, steering and other automotive specialties.

He said anyone can sign up for even one credit of auto shop and spend some time in the lab learning how to take care of their vehicle. This term, he’s also doing a lot of electrical work. For information, call (503)?338-7676, tell Sanders your problem, and see if he and his students can help.

CCC offers a one-year certificate and two-year associate’s degree in automotive technology.

For those who relish the life aquatic, down at the MERTS dock, floats Forerunner, the recently refurbished teaching vessel used in the college’s seamanship program. Three Astoria High School students learn on it with their fellow college classmates how to survive and thrive in the ocean.

“The students learn how to do everything on a boat,” said Capt. Burt Little, a seamanship professor. “Everybody’s going to do everybody’s job.”

Little moved up from being a deckhand to working on all types of vessels across the globe. David Harrison, a 16-year-old Astoria junior, wants to do the same.

“For me, I’d much rather have more adults,” in classes said Harrison. “I don’t think most high school kids are mature enough to want to learn.”

He also takes welding, splits his time evenly between college and high school and often spends more than 12 hours a day at class.

“It’s a real bummer going home to do homework at 9 p.m.,” he said. That’s after starting class at about 8 each morning.

Little said he’s preparing students for employment on small vessels as certified seamen, whether that means tying lines, fixing engines, rescuing men overboard or abandoning ship, all things they practice.

Continuing Opportunities

Astoria and Warrenton high schools both set aside money to fund students enrolling in college courses.

“We budget based on Senate Bill 300,” said Rod Heyen, principal of Warrenton High School. “That’s Oregon’s answer to getting kids into community college.”

SB 300 created the Expanded Options program, started in 2005 to provide 11th- and 12th-graders with the experience of college courses at the expense of the district, whose choice it is whether to provide funds.

According to statistics from Steven Schoonmaker, vice president of instruction at CCC, only the Astoria and Warrenton-Hammond districts send students to MERTS, often owing to their close proximity. Seaside School District offers college culinary arts courses taught at its high school by former Daily Astorian reporter and former chef Deeda Schroeder.

The MERTS?campus op-tions are only one piece of the larger Expanded Options program that covers many subjects and specific courses at CCC that high schools can no longer afford to offer on campus. The college requires Compass placement testing, and there are benchmarks for certain courses.


Students interested in simultaneous enrollment can meet with their district’s counselors to see if their district provides financial support. They can also contact Lisa Nyberg, a liaison between students and the college, at (503) 338-2480 or at For more information, visit CCC’s “Simultaneous Enrollment”?web page.



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