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Dual credit is a way to close opportunity gaps

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

High school students and Minnesotans who want to close high school and college graduation gaps share a great but hugely under-used tool: Minnesota’s wonderful, dual college credit programs. There are multiple dual credit options that students and families should be informed about. Each of us have used one of these programs and are actively working for more Minnesotans to understand and use these programs. Dual credit has made a huge difference in our lives – and could do so for many more. Dual credit includes:

    • Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). PSEO enables 10th– to 12th-grade students to earn college credits by taking classes on a college campus or online. PSEO dual enrollments are one of four options available to high school students.
    • College in the Schools (CIS), Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Project Lead the Way allow students to take college level/advanced courses taught by high school faculty.


Saving money, getting a taste of college

Earning college credits while in high school has saved Minnesota students and families substantial tuition dollars. It has also given high school students a taste of what college is like. We used dual credit programs to save costs and get a jump start on our future. Together we lead People for PSEO, a youth-led nonprofit focused on advocating on behalf of the PSEO program.

Aaliyah Hodge
Aaliyah Hodge
Aaliyah Hodge, founder and president of People for PSEO, grew up in East Flatbush, New York City, in the ’90s, where more than half of residents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma and one in five lived below the poverty level (U.S. Census 2000/NYC Department of City Planning). After switching schools a number of times, Aaliyah found her home in the St. Louis Park School District. She participated in PSEO at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities while a high school junior and senior. She graduated high school with 58 college credits, allowing her to earn a BA from the U debt-free at the age of 19. She then obtained a master’s in social policy and community and economic development from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. For Aaliyah PSEO was a catalyst out of poverty. PSEO allowed her to reach her full academic potential without being saddled with debt.

Brook LaFloe
Brook LaFloe
Brook LaFloe, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa band member and vice president of People for PSEO, took a slightly different path to dual credit. Brook took CIS classes at Johnson High School. CIS was a better option for her schedule. As a three-sport student, she needed to be at school after classes and not running between a high school and college campus. Brook later attended Macalester College, where she continued to play basketball and volleyball before transferring to Tulane University in New Orleans and playing Division I basketball. Brook now holds a master’s degree in education from Loyola University. She’s a Dr. Reatha Clark King Fellow and Young Women’s Initiative Program Manager.

Zeke Jackson
Zeke Jackson
Zeke Jackson, PFP’s executive director, is a native of Little Falls Minnesota. He attended Little Falls Community School. During his junior year, he enrolled full-time in PSEO at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities while living with extended family in the cities. He also served as outreach and advocacy director of the UMNTC PSEO Student Association Board before becoming executive director of People for PSEO. He has lobbied to remove barriers to PSEO participation for low-income and rural students. Additionally, through participation in the program he was able to graduate high school with 60 college credits and is currently a student at the Carlson School of Management at the U of M. 

We value dual credit programs for helping to shape our career aspirations and future goals. 

Economic and social benefits

Additionally, dual credit options are pivotal to closing education opportunity gaps in Minnesota. In 2015 the Minnesota Legislature enacted legislation setting a target that 70 percent of Minnesota adults aged 25-44 will have attained a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2025. Currently no demographic group is at that threshold. Minnesota needs approximately 144,000 additional residents aged 25 to 44 to complete their first educational credential (a certificate or degree). Dual credit programs are a great way for students to earn post-secondary credentialing while they are still in high school!  

Despite economic and social benefits of PSEO, a recent report by the Center for School Change shows that in a sampled survey, none of 95 Minnesota districts/charters provided all of the required legislative “up to date” information about PSEO. More troubling still is that about 20 districts/charters have adopted policies or procedures that appear to be inconsistent with the law, by creating unnecessary barriers such as limiting access to school computer labs, or not providing information on transportation support for PSEO students.

Such schools are ignoring the incredible value of the PSEO program for students of color, first generation college students, low-income students, and others. To help people understand the facts, and to help students reach their potential, community members, students and parents across Minnesota have created People for PSEO (PFP).  Our focus is to: 

  1. Promote the PSEO program among families, students, educators, and the general public;
  2. Encourage the refinement, expansion, and improvement of PSEO by providing information to legislators and other policy-makers; and 
  3.  Encourage greater equity and access to PSEO for students throughout Minnesota. 

Through these efforts, PFP is helping reduce disparities between students of color, low-income and rural students and their counterparts.

Facilitating change

PFP emphasizes empowering current and former PSEO students to find their voice and to facilitate changes they know are needed as a result of their own experiences. Student leaders set the policy platform, meet with legislators and testify at hearings, in addition to spearheading outreach efforts.

PSEO isn’t for every student. However, student choice is the stance that PFP supports. The decision to participate in the program is not for school counselors, school districts or commentators to decide. It’s for students and families to decide, to make the best-informed decision for themselves. To make informed decisions, all families need accurate up-to-date information on the program. More information can be found on the MDE website and at peopleforpseo.org.

Aaliyah Hodge, the president of People for PSEO, is the authorizing program coordinator at the University of St. Thomas and is working on her master’s in business analytics at the University of St. Thomas. Brook LaFloe is vice president of People for PSEO; she is currently the Dr. Reatha Clark King Fellow and Young Women’s Initiative MN program manager at the Women’s Foundation. Zeke Jackson, the executive director of People for PSEO, is a freshman at the University of Minnesota studying finance, international business, and political science.


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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 02/05/2020 - 08:37 am.

    Thanks to these authors for helping “get the word out” about the enormously valuable, but often under-used dual credit programs in Minnesota. Thanks to MinnPost for being willing to share the insights and expertise of these young leaders.

  2. Submitted by Bryan Rossi on 02/05/2020 - 08:53 am.

    A tremendous article. Giving our young people more options for learning and doing is the most important thing adults can do. Hats off to the leaders in government and schools for offering and promoting these opportunities.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Submitted by Barbara Bergseth on 02/07/2020 - 09:48 am.

    Thank you for the informative article. Dual credit programs provide wonderful opportunities for Minnesota youth!

  4. Submitted by Robert Wedl on 02/07/2020 - 10:42 am.

    Minnesota education provides students and parents with options. No one has to use them. Some say “let kids be kids” and enjoy high school. But for Aaliyah, Brook and Zeke, “enjoying high school” was accessing the rigors of postsecondary education. For others it is attending a technical college in computer technology or maybe earning a career certification. Is saving tens of thousands of dollars important? For many, postsecondary education would be out of reach without PSEO. Without the options…there is no choice. Thank goodness Minnesota provides these options.

  5. Submitted by John Poupart on 02/07/2020 - 11:41 am.

    Way to go, PSEO! This may be one of the equalizers in education for the disadvantaged. I have seen many efforts over the years but this is one of the most sustainable I have observed. Keep up the good work and I hope this grows to enormous proportions.

  6. Submitted by Asiya Browne on 02/07/2020 - 03:23 pm.

    I really enjoyed reading this article. As a full-time PSEO student, I’m so glad dual credit programs are becoming more and more well known. Unfortunately, many high schoolers are uninformed about dual-credit programs and end up not being able to take full advantage of CIS and PSEO programs across the state.

  7. Submitted by Laura Nathan on 02/09/2020 - 10:21 pm.

    For the 2019-2020 school year, the tuition per credit at the University of Minnesota is $512.30 (resident) and $1216 (non-resident). (https://assets.asr.umn.edu/files/tuition-and-fees-2019-2020.pdf) A student who takes AP or IB courses in high school can potentially test out of dozens of credits worth of required courses, thereby saving thousands upon thousands of dollars. (https://admissions.tc.umn.edu/academics/ib. html and https://admissions.tc.umn.edu/academics/ap.html)

    The opportunity to earn college credit, or college credit equivalencies, during high school is one of the best ways to empower and support all students. I hope these programs continue to grow and this article is a fantastic way to spread the word. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

  8. Submitted by joe smith on 02/10/2020 - 05:55 pm.

    Allow college incoming students to be able to test out of basic courses taught in the first 2 years of college. Now you are doing something for advanced students!

  9. Submitted by Saido Abdirashid on 02/10/2020 - 08:16 pm.

    PSEO programs has helped so many first-generation students and it made college more affordable. These dual-credit programs are important and I hope more high school students take advantage of these amazing opportunities.

  10. Submitted by Wayne Jennings on 02/13/2020 - 12:39 pm.

    For years, students have been bombarded with reminders to prepare for college. One instance was first-graders referred to as “scholars” on the way to college so they could become lawyers or doctors. Why not open student eyes to the range of possibilities after high school. Schools should conduct field trips to many types of post-high school opportunities: vocational (huge range of careers), industry training programs, military service training specialties, culinary schools, greenhouse, etc. Guest speakers from a variety of occupations would stretch student thinking about their futures. Most career training options funded by Minnesota’s PSEO would help students avoid career choices based on shallow thinking of, for example, what a relative does or a brief glimpse of attractiveness of some career (lawyer in a courtroom scene). Let’s stretch the minds of students about their careers with PSEO earlier than high school.

  11. Submitted by Joan Kneeskern on 02/16/2020 - 02:19 pm.

    I have witnessed first-hand the transformative power of Post Secondary Enrollment Options. It is tremendous to give young people options in their education journey and to allow high school students to dream big and to aspire to greater goals.

    Congratulations to these young authors on getting their message out.

  12. Submitted by Shawn Lewis on 02/17/2020 - 05:29 am.

    Dual credit is a way to close opportunity gaps is a powerful initiative in closing the achievement gap/opportunity gap. It is a smart use of taxpayer dollars and it advances student post-secondary education, which leads to a double bottom line benefit. This a no brainer. Please keep covering this effort. Thank you.

  13. Submitted by Greg Renne on 02/17/2020 - 08:13 am.

    I truly believe in PSEO. It helped my own daughter to get a leg up on college credits. The Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest, which is the apprenticeship training college for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 82 in Little Canada, MN offers a duel enrollment PSEO to high school seniors. The program provides the opportunity for seniors and senior plus to gain high school and college credits. It also provides hands-on trades skills in the finishing trades. The main goal of the program is to expose students to the opportunities in the trades with the opportunity of employment with one of the many IUPAT employers.

  14. Submitted by John Burcaw on 02/17/2020 - 08:41 am.

    Great article! Thank you, People for PSEO, for your tireless advocacy of PSEO programs here in Minnesota. It cannot be overstated how important providing real-world, meaningful educational opportunities are for our youth in today’s economy. To all involved, keep making a difference!

  15. Submitted by Scott Coenen on 02/21/2020 - 07:18 am.

    So inspiring to hear the student stories and how PSEO and College in the Schools made a difference! It is critical for high school students to have choices. I’m glad to see People for PSEO advocate for these programs.

  16. Submitted by Andrew Kopelman on 02/21/2020 - 02:05 pm.

    Thank you for sharing these students’ work to spread and bolster this program!

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