Options for high school students to earn college credit

by Jeff McGonigal

In 1985, legislators and Gov. Rudy Perpich approved a groundbreaking program for high school students called “Post Secondary Enrollment Options” (PSEO). The program continues today allowing students to leave their high school to attend a college or university.

When students successfully complete a college course through PSEO they earn high school and college credit. PSEO students have no cost for their college courses. In this time of skyrocketing college tuition, making college beyond reach for many, PSEO becomes more attractive. For families who cannot cover the costs of college, it is even becoming essential.

Since its inception, PSEO has been available only to high school students who enroll in college during their junior or senior year of high school. Both the colleges and the PSEO administrators seek students most likely to be successful. However, the college entrance process is not always accurate. At times it excludes students who could be successful and includes those who are not. Often the key to success is not academic ability but rather social skill development, or in the vernacular “ready for college.” If not ready, there are few academic supports for a teen who has challenged themselves taking PSEO. In fact, such students are removed from the daily support offered by a high school. The fact that PSEO has become necessary to students who cannot otherwise afford college means students must make this choice while college is free even when they are not otherwise be ready.

There are other opportunities for students to earn both high school and college credit, including Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB). AP is available at all Anoka-Hennepin high schools; IB is exclusive to Champlin-Park. Both programs offer college-level rigor in high school.

While there are advantages to AP and IB, including students remain in their high schools and receive support from school staff, college credit is not assured. Students must test and earn a score that will be accepted by colleges for credit.

To ensure students receive college credit for their work, Anoka-Hennepin is working to expand “Concurrent Enrollment” courses from local colleges that are taught in our schools by our teachers. This includes “College in the Schools” (CIS) from the University of Minnesota, “Senior to Sophomore” (S2S) from St. Cloud State University and Concurrent Enrollment from Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC).

ARCC received a federal grant expanding its concurrent enrollment courses in district schools, so this year we were able to offer one math and two medical science courses at Coon Rapids High School. At least one new course will be offered in 2012-13 at Andover, Anoka and Blaine high schools. Whether each school will be able to run a course is still dependent on the number of students who elect them during our registration process.

There are many advantages of concurrent enrollment. Prominent is the advantage of students remaining in their high school. Unique about the efforts of ARCC is additional support helping high school students become college ready while in these classes.

We are excited to see more Anoka-Hennepin students eligible and ready for college no matter the postsecondary path they choose. And we envision a time when more of our students graduate high school with college credits, at no cost to their families. Anoka-Hennepin administrators are working hard with Anoka-Ramsey and other area colleges and universities to make that vision a reality.

To learn more about the programs mentioned in this column go to:

• Post Secondary Enrollment Options


• University of Minnesota CIS


• SCSU Senior to Sophomore


• ARCC Concurrent Enrollment


Jeff McGonigal is the associate superintendent for high schools with the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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