With the cost of college rising 23-30% between 1998 and 2008, it is more important than ever for high school students to get ahead with advanced courses in high school. Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, created in 1985, does just that, allowing students in their junior or senior year of high school to earn college credits.
Currently, 66 colleges, universities and trade schools participate in the program statewide, including the University of Minnesota and its branches and all state universities. Any 11th or 12th student can participate in the program and enroll either full or part-time in courses or programs at postsecondary institutions. Each college, university and trade school that offers PSEO sets its own requirements for enrollment. Students work with their high school to ensure that classes they are taking fulfill credit requirements they need to graduate on time.
The PSEO program covers the cost of tuition, required books, and consumable course supplies for enrolled students, significantly lowering the future college costs. Transportation reimbursement is available for qualified low-income families.
Benefits of participation often extend beyond saving the cost of college credits. According to the University of Minnesota, each year they admit 500 high school students to their PSEO program. Of those students, 90% who applied to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2008 were accepted, compared to the overall Fall 2008 acceptance rate of 52.5%.
In Saint Paul and Minneapolis, students are taking advantage of PSEO opportunities. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 135 Saint Paul high school students currently enrolled in the program are taking 1,723 college credits; in Minneapolis 210 students are enrolled in 1,637 credits. The Twin Cities students attend 22 local colleges.
Kate Olson took part in the PSEO program in 1987 and 1988, taking eight college courses at the University of Minnesota.
“I was only able to take one or two AP courses a term at my high school and I wanted a more challenging academic routine,” said Olson. “I am very glad I did the PSEO program. I think it was absolutely the right decision for me academically.”
“The program was very helpful. I was able to get pre-requisites out of the way and get dual credit – college and high school – for them,” Olson said. “I had observed that many seniors in my high school tended to drift through senior year and I wanted to make the most of that year. Having the time to take those intro classes without paying tuition gave me more time to explore what I wanted to study without feeling pressure to stay on a set course program to graduate on time. I would imagine that that pressure is even more acute today with high tuition costs and universities pushing students to finish quickly.”
“I wanted to get some general education credits out of the way before I got to school, and realized the financial benefit of doing it as a high school student,” said Cindy Germann who took a music appreciation course through the PSEO program. “It takes a lot of work to coordinate your schedule, check what the school offers and when, and line it up with the requirements for your intended major at the school you plan to attend. However, most schools make it very easy on the student to coordinate finances and payment, and the school staff are eager to help.”
Eric Bass said he participated in the program, “mainly to be more challenged. High school seemed like more of a place to go socialize more than a place to learn academically.” Bass took eight college classes at the University of Minnesota, Morris where he lived in the dorms with the rest of the fully enrolled students.
“I am very glad I did the PESO program. I ended up at UMM which provided me with amazing opportunities (classes, student organizations, meeting different types of people), that first year and beyond. I was challenged on many levels academically, socially, and responsibility,” said Bass. “Having one less year of student loans to pay off also made the program a success in my mind. They only regret I ever felt was around times like prom and the graduation class party type things where I didn’t really know anyone from high school anymore. Those things are so minor and somewhat artificial in post-high school life that they really don’t seem like a reason to not have done PSEO away from home.”
To learn more about the PSEO program, visit the Minnesota Department of Education, speak with your high school guidance counselor, or check with any of the Minnesota colleges, universities and trade schools that participate in the program.