PSEO gives high schoolers a college experience


Each year about 600 high school students take classes at the University.

Seventeen-year-old Paul Banwart could be passing notes in homeroom, hanging out by his locker or going to the prom. Instead, Banwart lives in Middlebrook Hall.

Though it’s the accounting junior’s first semester at the University, he has yet to graduate from high school.

No longer attending classes at Shakopee High School, Banwart will return for graduation for his final act as a high school student.

Through the state’s postsecondary enrollment option, Banwart has graduated from Normandale Community College with an associate’s degree in accounting.

Danielle Tisinger, the University’s PSEO program coordinator, said the state-funded program allows the University to enroll 450 high school juniors and seniors each fall.

The University admits another 50 students in the spring.

Since the program is selective in its requirements, Tisinger said the program does not recruit students.

Of the nearly 600 students enrolled in the program this year, Tisinger said 10 live on campus.

Some of the criteria for students in the program include grade point average, high school rank, rigor of the classes they are taking in high school and the quality of the admissions essay, Tisinger said.

Banwart has been The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Eagle Scout for the past three years.

Camping with the Boy Scouts of America is kind of like the living situation in Middlebrook Hall, Banwart said.

“In the Boy Scouts, I went camping a lot,” he said.

Postsecondary education option student Paul Banwart lives on campus while taking University classes.
“You always had a tent partner.”

Though Banwart said he’s been making friends, he said he isn’t able to be a part of extra-curricular activities like in the past.

“This semester it’s different. It’s too hard to travel back and forth to play sports or be in clubs,” Banwart said.

He has foregone varsity tennis, varsity soccer, National Honor Society and student council to be an on-campus college student.

His father, Mark Banwart, said Paul Banwart is doing PSEO because it paid off for his older brother, University alumnus Benjamin Banwart, who went to college almost for free.

“As you know, college is expensive,” Mark Banwart said. “If you’re mentally mature enough and develop some study skills, it’s worth a shot.”

While Banwart might not be on the Shakopee campus for classes, principal Jim Murphy said the program has helped more than 30 students, including Paul Banwart, do the PSEO program this year.

Murphy said this year two students from the high school are attending the University full-time through PSEO.

Murphy said the College in the Schools – which offers college credits at the students’ high schools – and PSEO programs are emphasized for students in Shakopee. The high school offers eight college courses for students and will be adding one more in the fall.

Much like his brother, Paul Banwart will graduate from the Carlson School of Management at 19 years old.

“My brother did PSEO, as well,” he said. “In a way, I’m following in his footsteps.”