Minnesota students take $100 million of free college credit courses

The following column was published in various newspapers in late June and early July, 2018.

Minnesota students learned from $100 million+

free college credit courses

 

More than $100 million — that’s the value of academic and technical college-credit courses that Minnesota high school students took during the 2016-17 school year at Minnesota’s public two-year colleges and four-year universities. Because there are so many benefits, families might want to discuss dual-credit options with their high-school-age youngsters this summer.

Dual-credit courses can make colleges and universities much more affordable. And research shows that taking college-level courses in high school makes it far more likely that students will not only enter but graduate from a two- or four-year college or university with a certificate or degree.

There are three important limitations to the information above.

First, the $100 million figure is an understatement. The information above doesn’t include the number of Minnesota high school students participating in PSEO courses at private colleges or universities. It doesn’t include Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Project Lead the Way courses, and the College Level Exam Program (CLEP). These also help high school students earn college credit.

Second, not all the college credits that students earn in high school are accepted by postsecondary institutions. So it’s vital for high school students to check the Minnesota Office of Higher Education report on dual-credit acceptance policies, available here: https://bit.ly/2srIuZG.

Finally, just taking a dual-credit course doesn’t mean the student passes. Failing a college-level course can make it more difficult for a student to graduate from high school. Also, students’ grades follow them into college.

Students can start taking dual-credit courses at their high school campus as early as ninth grade, and online or on a college campus in the 10th grade. However, depending on, for example, a student’s skill level and other time commitments, it could be wise to wait until a junior or senior year and to start with one or two college-level courses in areas of particular strength and interest.

Here are some details, thanks to officials at the Minnesota State system and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

First, information from Doug Anderson, director of communication and media at Minnesota State:

—At Minnesota’s two- year public colleges, students took 306,918 credits at an average cost per credit of $178.80. That’s a total potential savings of $54,876,938.

—At the four-year public universities, students took 76,318 credits, worth on average $267.60 per credit, for a total of $20,422,697.

—40,277 Minnesota high school students took a dual-credit course with Minnesota State; of those, some took an on-campus or online PSEO course, others took a course in high school offered in cooperation with Minnesota State institutions, and some did both.

—Students’ participation at each of the two-year colleges and four-year universities, which varied widely, is available here: https://bit.ly/2Je4GRr.

University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus officials provided the following information:

— Julie Williams, director of the College in the Schools program, told me: “In 2016-17, students earned 57,274 U of M semester credits. At the 2016-17 U of M undergrad tuition rate of $482.54 (per credit), the value of the credits was $27,636,995.96.”

—Scott Coenen, PSEO program director at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, reported that in 2016-17, University of Minnesota PSEO students took 10,411 PSEO credits. He also cited the $482.54 per credit given above. (He mentioned that non-PSEO undergraduate students pay fees averaging $432.18 per credit. Coenen also explained that “regular” University of Minnesota students save if they take more than 13 credits.) Overall, not including fees, University of Minnesota PSEO students took credits worth $5,023,723.94.

Minnesota provides among the nation’s broadest opportunities for high school students to challenge themselves, learn about college expectations, and save thousands of dollars. Families may want to discuss these opportunities with youngsters during the summer. — Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school educator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at joe@centerforschoolchange.org.)