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, 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, 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, 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:
- Promote the PSEO program among families, students, educators, and the general public;
- Encourage the refinement, expansion, and improvement of PSEO by providing information to legislators and other policy-makers; and
- 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.
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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