Students wanting to know more about how to earn college credits while in high school finally can count on their schools for the latest information, a study shows.
Until this year, it’s not always been that easy.
The St. Paul-based Center for School Change, a longtime champion of dual-credit courses, reported last summer that nine of 10 school districts and charter schools failed to provide current information about Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), available to students.
The program is seen as a major value to students and families because it allows high schoolers to do all or part of their coursework for free at participating colleges and universities. Future tuition costs are saved, and “academic momentum” established, said Joe Nathan, a senior fellow at the Center for School Change.
But last year’s study of 87 districts and charter schools showed many failed to let students know about new features that included the availability of courses for 10th-graders or the possibilities that students could take courses online or receive transportation assistance if they are low-income.
Since then, the center has called upon the state Department of Education and several education groups to encourage districts and schools to come into compliance with a 2014 law requiring schools to provide “up-to-date” information on their websites or in their printed materials.
A new study to be released by the center Thursday indicates it’s getting results.
As of March 1, about nine of 10 of the 87 districts and schools examined previously now are supplying the information. Improvements still can be made, but “it is tremendously encouraging that there has been so much progress,” said John Miller, co-director of the Center for School Change.
Still missing on too many district websites, however, is a search function to bring online users directly to PSEO information, the study shows.
Nathan and the center’s co-directors — Miller and Malik Bush — also are pursuing legislation that would require the state to compile in one place how many PSEO and other dual-credit courses that individual colleges and universities will accept toward a degree.
“St. Olaf and Macalester colleges have a right to decide how many they will accept, but it is important for families to know it,” Nathan said.
Russell Pekala, a volunteer intern who worked on the center’s latest report, learned that not all of the PSEO credits he earned as a student at Southwest High in Minneapolis will be accepted at his new school. Then again, Miller notes, that school is Harvard University.
Word of mouth worked
One reason given for school districts’ reluctance to advertise PSEO is that they lose some of the revenue that participating students generate.
Rogelio Salinas is a senior at Highland Park High in St. Paul who takes courses through PSEO at the University of Minnesota. He said he was tipped to the program by another student, not by the school.
“They don’t advertise or support it, but they don’t discourage it, I would say,” he said.
Salinas said that if he were to change PSEO, he would limit it to students from low-income areas. That, he said, “would do incredible things to help high-achieving students who don’t have the resources because of where they live.”
The Center for School Change has worked with low-income students at six St. Paul schools — four district schools and two charter schools — to encourage enrollment in dual-credit courses. For more information, go to the center’s website at centerforschoolchange.org/dual-credit.