The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District reported this month that high school students who earned college credits while in high school saved more than $1.3 million in college tuition costs in 2012-13.

The district's two high schools — Tartan High in Oakdale and North High in North St. Paul — offered 27 CIS (College in the Schools) and AP (Advanced Placement) courses last school year. The total number of credits earned through the CIS program was 2,804, the district said.

The CIS program has been offered in partnership with the University of Minnesota.

The promotion of so-called dual (high school/college) credit courses has been a priority of the Center for School Change, which publishes an annual booklet, "Get A Jump Start On Your Future," funded by the Bremer, Frey, Morning, St. Paul and Travelers foundations, as well as the state Department of Education.

Last fall, Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, helped coordinate appearances by three students at a St. Paul school board meeting during which the students touted the personal and financial benefits of earning college credits while in high school.

Three years ago, Adam Herron, a North High graduate, also offered a written testimonial in the 2011 edition of the jump-start booklet.

He said that because of his experience taking AP and PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options) courses, he was able to graduate from the University of Minnesota 18 months early.

For Herron, the advantages of taking dual credit courses became apparent, he said, in his junior year when he attended PSEO courses at Hamline University in St. Paul.

"I felt pretty special being able to leave and drive to St. Paul on my own — no teachers, hall monitors, nothing," he wrote. "If anyone did try to stop me as I was leaving school, I'd just tell them with pride, 'I have to go to PSEO.' "

The program had the added benefits of being free to high schoolers, Herron said.

He attended the University of Minnesota full-time during his senior year, never setting foot in a North High classroom, and saved tens of thousands of dollars in the process, he wrote.

Herron now attends Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas, and is scheduled to graduate in three weeks, he said in a Facebook message last week.

At the St. Paul school board meeting last fall, Jennifer Reyes Gomez, who attended AGAPE High School, a St. Paul Public Schools program for students who are pregnant or parenting, told board members how she took a PSEO course to spare her family some of her eventual college tuition costs.

"When my parents heard the news that I had signed up for PSEO classes, they told me how proud they were of me and how brave I am to take the risk," she said. "I am proud to be the first one in my family to attend college."

Khalique Rogers, a senior at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, told the board that he would be earning three college credits and two high school credits in 2013-14 by taking a CIS public speaking class being offered at Gordon Parks through the University of Minnesota.

Nathan said that educators at six St. Paul schools have worked to expand the number of students who enroll in the dual credit courses.

The current edition of the jump-start booklet is the fourth in a series and is the product of a collaboration between charter and district public schools. To learn more about the courses online, go to the Center for School Change website.

Herron's essay is available at: