Students interested in healthcare careers may get a jump on college courses while still in high school. And the good news is, it's free.

The bad news is, Minnesota's Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) hasn't always been the most accessible program, particularly to students from low-income families. The biggest barrier has been transportation, but Minneapolis' Roosevelt High School and Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) are teaming up to resolve that issue in the fall for students in Roosevelt's 11-year-old Health Careers Program.

Roosevelt has attracted 325 students from all over the city to the program this year, according to coordinator Michael O'Connor. "We encourage them to take post-secondary education whenever possible but there is a transportation issue," he says. "The kids don't have vehicles and it can be burdensome to pop up dollars every time they want to take the bus."

College comes to high school

In the fall, students will be able to take MCTC's Health Care Core Curriculum, worth eight college credits, at Roosevelt. The classes, which will also count for high school credits, will be taught by a Roosevelt teacher who's been trained to teach college-level classes, O'Connor says. The curriculum gives an overview of career opportunities in healthcare, the roles of healthcare workers, licensing and credentialing, employers' expectations, communication skills, respect for a diversity of clients, safety and medical terminology, says Karen Hynick, dean of academic affairs and student support at MCTC.

In addition, an MCTC instructor will teach classes at Roosevelt in becoming a certified nursing assistant or home health aide for five college credits. Hospital beds and other equipment required for the courses will be donated to the school, O'Connor says.

"It's an opportunity for students to be exposed earlier to college courses and rigor, and it's tuition free, so it's a win-win," says Hynick. Adds O'Connor: "We`re hopeful this will be a good way to focus students' attentions, and intentions, on healthcare and give them a college experience at the same time."

Student requirements

To qualify for PSEO, a high school junior must be in the 70th percentile of his or her class; a senior in the 50th percentile, Hynick explains. Students must also have completed prerequisites for the college classes and take the Accuplacer test administered by The College Board so colleges can assess the students' reading, writing and mathematical abilities.

Once accepted into PSEO, students may take as many classes as they are able, even up to receiving an associate's degree while still in high school, Hynick says.

PSEO is available at all Minnesota public colleges universities and at many private colleges as well. For more information on PSEO, visit www.mnscu.edu/students/specialprograms/pseo.html. For information on Roosevelt's Health Careers Program, visit roosevelt.mpls.k12.mn.us/Health_Careers_SLC. For information on MCTC, go to www.minneapolis.edu.


Nancy Crotti is a freelance writer who lives in St. Paul.