New Program Saves Minnesota High School Students Time, Money


The following column originally appeared in a number of APG of East Central Mn newspapers during September, 2023

New program saves Minnesota high school students time, money



I have good news for thousands of Minnesota high school seniors and their families: You can save time and money thanks to a new program called Direct Admissions.

Here’s how it works.

Seniors at 129 Minnesota district and charter high schools will receive emails this fall listing some of the more than 50 Minnesota public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities that have admitted them. Admissions decisions are based on the grade point average students earned and courses taken through the end of their junior year. There’s no cost to apply to any of the colleges that have accepted students. This can save students and their families hundreds of dollars — along with a lot of time.

Students can then decide which colleges they want to learn more about and apply for scholarships. Minnesota Office of Higher Education officials, who are coordinating the program, stress this is a vital step. And they strongly encourage all students to complete the FAFSA form, which shows whether they are eligible for scholarships based on family income.

Dennis Olson, MOHE commissioner, told me, “We have a moral as well as economic imperative to expand higher education opportunities for Minnesotans.” He stressed that MOHE values certificate, one- and two-year programs, as well as four-year degrees.

Commissioner Olson, Courtesy, MOHE

Olson acknowledged “some people question the value of enrolling in any form of higher education.” However, he pointed out terrific jobs are available for people who earn career and technical certificates and degrees. Research also shows that people who earn college certificates and degrees are happier  and healthier.

Because the Direct Admissions program takes 20-40 hours for high school counselors to set up, and because officials say refinements may be necessary, it’s being offered on a voluntary basis.

MOHE’s website has a list of the 129 district and charter high schools that are offering the program this year.

More than 50 of Minnesota’s public and private colleges and universities are participating. They’re listed here.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Olson told me, “I hope that they will decide to participate.” I agree. This is especially timely because a recent New York Times report showed the University of Minnesota Twin Cities was in the bottom half of 286 selective colleges and universities in terms of the percentage of low-to-moderate-income students who receive federal Pell scholarships.

Jake Ricker of the University of Minnesota responded to my concern about the Twin Cities campus not participating, explaining: “We are committed to recruiting and enrolling a diverse student body on each of our campuses. With more than 9,000 Pell-eligible students systemwide in any given year, including more than 6,600 at the Twin Cities campus, we honor that commitment in a need-blind admissions environment that further promotes diverse enrollment.” He noted the other U of M campuses are participating and “in the future (we) may reassess whether or not the Twin Cities campus will participate in the program.”

I also hope additional Minnesota high schools will participate in the 2024-25 school year.

Meanwhile, Direct Admissions can help thousands of Minnesota high school students. Students in participating high schools can check with their school counselors and find more information from MOHE here  and here.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D., formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome: