High schoolers cash in on dual credit classes

By Joe Nathan on September 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm


Joe Nathan column – Maria, Anna, Oscar, Tong and Adam have things that high school students and their parents may find useful. In a new, free booklet, these students describe how they saved thousands of dollars and gained enormously by taking dual-credit (for high school and college) courses. Some refer to these school choice programs – including Post-Secondary Enrollment Options, or PSEO – as “corporate school reform.” Participating students (and I) see these programs as expanding opportunity and helping many more of them be successful.

Let’s start with Maria Gutierrez from Bloomington Kennedy High School. She graduated last spring. In the “Jump Start on Your Future” booklet, she wrote that deciding to take Advanced Placement classes “was not easy but I knew it would be best for me. … Usually people decide to take it easy in their last year but I was different.” She took two AP courses: psychology along with literature and composition. “These two courses were extremely challenging for me but they both helped me gain knowledge that will be useful … throughout my life.” Her AP courses helped Maria win scholarships to St. Catherine University and Normandale.

Maria plans to earn a degree in nursing. She concluded, “Taking dual-credit classes was one of the best decisions I made throughout my high school career.”

Then there’s Anna Jessurun, of Mounds View High School, who took “a variety of Advanced Placement courses as well as a few College in the Schools classes through the University of Minnesota.” She wrote, “I can attest with absolute certainly that I can fully attribute my current college readiness to these classes. … The rigor and intrigue that these courses provided gave me the confidence that one requires to enter the frightening yet exciting world of post-secondary education.”

Tong Vang of Harding High School in St. Paul wrote that he has used PSEO to earn 60 college credits. “I have saved up to $40,000 in tuition and books and will graduate from college in the next two years after high school. … This is a really wonderful program and I would highly recommend it to any junior or senior.”

Oscar Enrique Perez, of Community of Peace Academy, a charter in St. Paul, explained, “I was raised in a low-income family in the public housing townhouses of St. Paul.” He took a “Writer’s Studio” College in the Schools class and an interpersonal communications class at St. Paul College. Oscar concluded, “I’m not a very wealthy person, so the fact that PSEO and CIS offer free college classes is great.”

Finally, Adam Herron, a former PSEO and AP student at North High School noted, “Due to my PSEO and AP credits, I graduated college 1.5 years early.”

The booklet, which Marisa Gustafson of our staff edited, was produced with financial support from the Minnesota Department of Education. You can find a free copy on our website here.

Some people dismiss school choice programs like PSEO as an example of “corporate influence” in public education. But one of the central ideas of democracy is freedom and opportunity. People across the political spectrum support PSEO and other dual-credit programs. Moreover, giving students choices via PSEO has encouraged high schools to add additional dual-credit courses. That’s great.


Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher and adminstrator, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, please comment below.