New post-secondary option is ready

People like Eric and Sam have valuable insights about free college courses via Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). And now, the legislature has expanded PSEO to include 10th graders.

Responding to an earlier column, Eric wrote the Forest Lake Times, “PSEO is a great option for high school students (who are) ready for it. I took my entire junior and senior year of high school through PSEO at St. Thomas University and not only saved a fortune in college tuition but actually spent those two years learning…”

Sam, 17, reported, “I saved literally tens of thousands of dollars by doing this and got a jump start.” This spring he graduated from high school and earned a (two-year college) Associate degree.

This fall, for the first time, 10th graders who meet college expectations and have passed Minnesota’s required eighth grade reading test may take a free career/technical course on a college campus.  If they earn at least a “C,” they may take additional PSEO career technical courses during their sophomore year. State funds will pay their tuition, lab and book fees. Interested students should register now for the fall.

LeAnn Brown, Director of Admission at Anoka Technical College says, “we feel very prepared for this group of students.” She said that depending on their skill level, 10th graders might, for example be able to take a beginning course in welding, machine technology or emergency medical services.

Mike Dougherty, Vice Chancellor, Advancement for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, wrote that eligible 10th graders would be able to take courses on a space available basis, such as “nursing assistant,  child development, culinary arts, business, manufacturing, to engineering.” (These offer) “students a broad range of opportunities to explore introductory-level college courses and career pathways.”

As Minnesota Senate Education Committee Chair Gen Olson explained, “Some students are far more successful in ‘hands-on’ career technical courses than in traditional academic courses. We need to offer options.”

Following legislative intent, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities guidelines permit a variety of students to try a PSEO career/technical course, not just those doing extremely well in high school.

High school juniors and seniors already may take free PSEO career/technical and academic courses.

Research shows that young people who participate in various forms of dual credit are more likely not only to enter, but also to graduate from a two- or four-year higher education institution. Moreover, Minnesota Department of Education research over the last decade shows that 90 percent or more of African American, Asian American, Latino/Hispanic and white students, who take at least 280 hours (3-4 semester classes) of career-technical courses, graduate from high school in four years. So the “achievement gap” in high school graduation is almost eliminated among these youngsters.


Joe Nathan, formerly a public school teacher and administrator, and local PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, [email protected]