Donna Grethen, Tribune Media Services

Editorial: An early start on college

  • January 14, 2012 - 4:50 PM

Taking advanced, dual-enrollment classes made a big difference in Paj Ntaub Lee's life.

Her Hmong immigrant parents didn't encourage her to go to college; they thought graduating from high school, then getting married or finding a job would be enough for their child.

But her exposure to college and higher-level courses while at Johnson High school in St. Paul set her on a path to graduate from St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Her experience should be shared by more Minnesota students, and the Legislature should expand the programs that make that possible.

Participating in any of the state's dual-credit programs can prepare more students for college work, save money and increase postsecondary graduation rates. Taking more-challenging classes can also open educational doors for not only the highest-performing students, but for kids across the academic spectrum.

Those are the conclusions of a recent study conducted by the Center for School Change (CSC) at Macalester College. Minnesota students can participate in one of five dual-credit options -- Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, postsecondary options, concurrent enrollment programs or Project Lead the Way, which allows students to take course in technical and scientific areas.

Each program allows students to earn college credit while still in high school.

The study showed that the programs are increasing in popularity -- between 2001 and 2006, about 38,000 state students took AP or IB exams, and an average of about 5,500 students a year participated in postsecondary options during those years. Concurrent enrollment increased from 17,581 to 21,184 between 2008 and 2010.

A 2010 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities report showed that 53 percent of those who enrolled in a Minnesota public college within two years of graduation had to take at least one remedial course.

But if more students take advantage of dual-credit options, more will be prepared for college and other postsecondary level work. That will reduce the need for remedial courses and save money for students, families and taxpayers.

To expand the options to include more students, the CSC report rightly recommends that the Legislature change the statutes to allow ninth- and 10th-graders to participate and to allow colleges and universities to advertise about the savings.

Paj Ntaub Lee now works for the CSC and helped do the research for the center's report. She's a supporter - and a good example of why more Minnesota students should take advantage of dual-credit options.

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