Thaddeus Sundin is a smart teenager who just saved himself about $55,000 in education expenses.

Thaddeus Sundin is a smart teenager who just saved himself about $55,000 in education expenses.

In June, he graduated from Medford's Logos Public Charter School with a high school diploma and from Rogue Community College with an associate degree.

As one of 16 Logos students enrolled in the new Pathfinders program, Sundin shaved two years off the time and tuition he'll need to get a bachelor's degree in computer science at Portland State University.

Everyone knows of junior Einsteins who raced through the education system. But nongeniuses are zipping ahead, too.

Some test out of required classes and earn a high school diploma before they are old enough to vote. Others take college credit classes taught by their high school teachers, from Advance Placement economics to woodworking.

And some, such as 18-year-old Sundin, are full-time high school and full-time college students, racking up credits on two transcripts.

Sundin's fast tracking has benefits beyond the financial.

Starting college as an upperclassman, he doesn't have to live in the freshman dorm. He has early registration, ensuring that he'll get the class schedule he wants. And he will slide right into upper-level courses in his major, vaulting over introductory class work.

To get to this position, he had to juggle assignments from teachers on two campuses.

But unlike some high school programs that limit college coursework, Sundin selected from RCC's whole academic catalog. When he could, he focused on classes that would count for both degrees.

Pretty smart.

But his path is not just reserved for eggheads with elevated IQs.

"The students who do this don't have to be straight-A students," says Valerie Barr, Logos' director of student services who launched the Pathfinders program in the 2012-13 school year. "We just need them to perform strong academically, and be mature and independent."

This fall, Logos will have 50 of its 350 high school students earning dual credits. Each time they get an A or B at RCC, their college tuition, books and supplies are paid for by the charter school.

Barr says straddling two academic levels keeps her students more engaged in learning. They also get experience interacting with college professors and selecting classes wisely.

In college, when each credit is costly, "they save time and money not taking a class they don't need," she says.

On Friday, Sundin was sitting at Dutch Bros. Coffee House in Grants Pass, which is near his house.

It's summer, so life is a little more relaxed than during the school year, when he was facing deadlines from dozens of teachers and dancing on stage in "The Nutcracker" and ballet recitals.

After three years of taking college classes, he says he prefers the feel and freedom of a higher ed environment to high school.

"I'm motivated to commit to college," says Sundin, who was named Logos' valedictorian for the Class of 2013 and sang an original song during the graduation ceremony. "I'm not the high school student who cares about goofing off."

Days later, his mother, Margaret Sundin, said she doesn't think many public school families are aware that students can simultaneously earn high school and college credits.

"I would strongly encourage any parent to consider this for their child," says Margaret, whose daughter Jacqueline, now 21, took college classes at Logos while daughter Stetson, 15, attends North Valley High.

"As good as high school teachers are, it's a valuable opportunity for kids to learn from university-level professors," she says. "Teenagers are young and their brains are sharp, and they can do this."

She says there is another lesson to be learned before children leave home for college.

"Having college experience during high school means they won't be turned loose into the world," she adds. "They already know how to act."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or