Minnesota's Post Secondary Enrollment Option has been around since 1985 and continues to grow in popularity — and with good reason.
The program allows high school students to enroll in college classes to earn both high school and college credit. Advocates say it saves students and their families college tuition money, exposes students to a faster-paced academic setting than they would get in their high school, and gives students the chance to graduate from college at a younger age.
In today's education environment, those are understandably attractive attributes. The horror stories about student loan debt alone would be enough to entice more and more students into the PSEO program.
Statewide enrollment in the PSEO and Concurrent Enrollment programs, by the way, has increased by 44 percent since 2013. At Rochester Community & Technical College, PSEO/Concurrent students comprised 14 percent of the college's enrollment last fall, compared to 6 percent 10 years ago.
Without a doubt, PSEO offers an option for many students — but not for all, as even advocates of the program warn.
For instance, entering the program is not as easy as simply showing up. High school juniors and seniors must have attained certain grade point averages to be admitted, and also must pass a college assessment test.
That's just the paper work.
Here are some other factors to consider before enrolling:
• Is your 17-year-old mature enough to be in a classroom with students at least a few years, if not up to a decade or more, older? Some are, some are not.
• Which type of college does your student eventually hope to attend? Not all colleges will pledge to accept the transfer credits from a community college. That's especially true if your student has their eyes on a private or out-of-state school.
• Are the honors or advanced-placement classes in your high school at least, if not more, rigorous than the intro classes at the local college? The hard truth of it is that some college admissions officers advise a student to take AP English, for example, at their high school rather than English 101 at the local community college.
• Is your student ready to forego much of the traditional life of a high school student?
• And finally, is the cost of education the determining factor in making a choice? Should it be?
There are no easy answers, of course, for most families. While PSEO is a good opportunity, it is not the right choice for everyone.
For that reason, we advise parents and students to do as much research as possible before leaving high school for early enrollment in college classes.