This year, I began attending the UMN as a PSEO student. While I don’t regret the decision, I can’t say it was a well-informed one. AP classes are constantly explained and reiterated from the moment high school starts, from AP Prep class to Opportunity day, but PSEO is barely known. PSEO may not be the best fit for everyone, but it’s important for students to be educated on their choices, and be encouraged to make decisions that are the best for them.
How PSEO Works
Basically, PSEO, which stands for “Post Secondary Enrollment Options”, is a dual credit program. This means that a student can attend college classes, either online or on campus, and receive both high school and college credit. Beyond that, there are only a few consistent factors.
PSEO students must be able to participate in school sponsored activities
Tuition, textbooks, and required consumable supplies will be paid for
High schools can’t limit the amount of PSEO classes a high school student takes
The academic requirements, admissions, and the courses students can enroll in is decided by the individual college. For Normandale, high school seniors are required to be in the top half of their class and place above the 50th percentile on the ACT, SAT, or PSAT. The UMN requires that applicants are in at least 11th grade with an unweighted GPA of 3.6.
On the other hand, grade-weighing policies and how college and high school credits relate is decided by the high school. At LNHS, PSEO grades are unweighted and college credits are worth 0.25 of high school credits. This seems counter-intuitive, but 2 semesters at North is worth 1.0 credit, while an average 1 semester college course is 3.0-4.0 credits. This means a 4.0 credit college course, which is one semester long, is the equivalent of a 2 semester high school class.
People for PSEO
PSEO can let students earn more college credit and study more subjects, but it still needs improvement. To advocate for change, People for PSEO (PPSEO), was founded.
Zeke Jackson, a senior enrolled in PSEO and a member of the board, states that “People for PSEO [is] a nonprofit organization, [with the goal to] spread awareness about the PSEO program, to get kids involved and promote the program as a way for Minnesota students to explore their potential.”
Despite that, Zeke states that many schools “don’t talk about PSEO as an option, they emphasize over and over again AP or CIS, all these other options. For some of those students who aren’t comfortable or just don’t fit with a regular high school classroom, PSEO is a great option for them.”
While PSEO was the right option for me, I didn’t feel like I understood the details of the PSEO program, like grade weighing or _______, until I was going through my PSEO orientation through the UMN. Students deserve to be educated on the decisions they’re making, which is why PPSEO and programs like it are so important. PPSEO has collected testimonials from past PSEO students on their website and the PSEO Student Association, a club run by UMN PSEO students, hosts events for current and interested students. Both programs are working to help students make more informed decisions about joining PSEO.
PPSEO is also advocating for PSEO at a legislative level. In particular, they are advocating for required grade-weighing, but they also support issues like raising transportation funds for students with free and reduced lunches.
Jackson states that to do this PPSEO is “networking so we can come together as one voice to work with legislators after this coming election.” Just a month ago, PPSEO participated in a roundtable discussion with Minnesota governor candidates, emphasizing the importance of better PSEO policies.
Benefits of PSEO
Zeke and many PSEO students believe in PSEO particularly because of its ability to reduce student debt and close the opportunity gap, two very large educational issues.
Minnesota is ranked 5th highest in college debt, with an average debt of $31,579 (Institute for College Access and Success), and the issue doesn’t seem to be getting any better. In the PSEO program, not only will up to 2 years of college be paid for, but students who participate in “dual enrollment on college campuses [have] higher rates of college enrollment and degree attainment.” (The Community College Research Center) Out of these dual enrollment programs, PSEO could be the best option, as research from the University of Minnesota states that “PSEO students tend to graduate at faster rates than students from other [dual-enrollment] programs”, saving students both time and money.
PSEO also plays an incredibly important role in closing the opportunity gap. Students from low income families and students of color who participated in a least one dual enrollment course are 39% more likely to graduate from high school. Regardless of a student’s local high school, PSEO gives everyone the opportunity to pursue the same high-quality education.
Data from People for PSEO
While I realize PSEO is not for everyone, it does play a crucial role in our education system. However, for PSEO to help the most people it can, students have to be able to make an informed decision on whether or not PSEO is right for them.