Invest in the Future: Postsecondary Program

A Child Finds The Answers!

Life isn’t supposed to be like this. My hope was that my sons could grow up, go to college, and find the perfect jobs. At no time did I ever dream their chance for the future could be ripped away as quickly as mine. It would all come down to my child’s research about the Postsecondary Program in Minnesota.

My husband had broken his hand. It seemed like a simple medical problem which might present some problems, but it wasn’t supposed to be a life-changer!

Out of the blue one day, he announced that he wasn’t going back to work. He’d decided since he supported me after the car accident it was my turn to support him.

I begged him to find an easy job where he could earn enough to add to the grocery budget. Instead, he began helping a neighbor work on her upholstery business each day for a few hours.

Frantic Doesn’t Describe My Attitude

The boys became used to watching their father sleep late and work a few hours. Neither of them said anything, but I knew they were as worried as I was.

My oldest son arrived home from school late one May afternoon.

“I’m quitting high school.” He announced.

“You’re what?” I couldn’t believe my son intended to give up a purposeful life too.

“I’m quitting high school.” He said.

I tried to remain calm, but my voice betrayed me as I asked him why he’d give up all his dreams in life when he was only a Sophomore. In my heart, I knew the constant bullying had made an impact on his life. But, I couldn’t imagine this child with such high grades would want to give up everything.

“I’ve signed up for the postsecondary program at school.”

“The what?”

“The postsecondary program. It’s a program in Minnesota where you can take college classes, and they count for both high school graduation and college at the same time.”

He had my attention.

The Postsecondary Program changed my son's life and mine.
My oldest son was leaving Lakeville High School and the Panthers for a chance at a college education using the postsecondary program.

Postsecondary Program Details

I would learn that Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) in Minnesota is a program that allows 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students to earn college credit while still in high school, through enrollment in and successful completion of college-level courses. With traditional PSEO, these courses take place on the campus of the postsecondary institution; some classes occur online. Postsecondary institutions are not allowed to charge PSEO students for tuition, textbooks or support services. Students may have to pay for equipment that becomes their property when the course or program ends.

Most PSEO courses are only open to high school students during their 11th- and 12th-grade year, with each participating college and university setting their requirements for enrollment into the PSEO courses and programs. Students may take PSEO courses on a full- or part-time basis. (Source: Minnesota Department of Education)

During the coming week, I talked to his teachers, Guidance Counselor, and Principal. They all agreed the program was perfect for a student like my son who was a high achiever.

The postsecondary program was a dream come true for a mother who couldn’t afford to send her child to college.

Terror and Elation

In my heart, I was both terrified of my son entering the world of high school graduates and delighted at the thought that we could get through two years of college without any outlay of cash other than getting him to and from school.

My first requirement was that he would not be allowed to attend the University of Minnesota. That decision wasn’t because I had any problems with the UofM other than that my son would only be a junior in high school when he arrived.

I convinced him the only way I’d agree to allow him to pursue this avenue would be to attend a junior college. We did some checking and decided he’d go to Normandale Community College for two years to gain his Associate Degree and his High School Diploma.

He kept every promise he made, and two years later, we attended his graduation service at Normandale. No mother could have been prouder.

He immediately took a job with a collection agency and between the two of us, we were able to pay for his third year of college at Mankato State University. I still worried about him, but instead of sticking around the dorm room, he came home on the weekends and worked to make spending money.

He would graduate from Mankato State University and go on to get his Master’s Degree.

Your Child’s Dreams

Costs have increased for students entering the postsecondary program, but there are ways you can make it work. Your child will forfeit some of the benefits of staying within the high school program, but if they don’t excel in sports or academics enough to win scholarships, this may be your best resource for helping provide a college education and productive future for them.

An Investment in the Future

“A postsecondary education is an essential investment a student can make in their future. Furthermore, the cost of this investment is higher than ever, creating a barrier to access for some students, particularly those from low-income families,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We look forward to partnering with institutions to help students prepare to succeed in college.”

The Department is supposed to release a Federal Register Notice inviting postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country. (Source: U.S. Department of Education) That may not happen under the new administration.

The Future of the Postsecondary Program

I don’t know if any of the federal programs will change in the new administration, but for your sake and the sake of your children, I pray they don’t.

Community colleges offer over 70 percent of dual enrollment courses taken by high school students nationwide. I must not be the only mom out there who’s concerned about a high school student walking around a college campus.

Back when my son did it, it wasn’t a typical or well-known choice. Today, it is helping low-income families provide college credits and an opportunity for success in the future.

Postsecondary Program Provides Hope

Research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to better grades in high school, increased enrollment in college following high school, higher rates of persistence in college, greater credit accumulation, and increased rates of credential attainment. (An, B. P. (2012). “The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35, 57—75.) And (Karp, M. M., Calcagno, J. C., Hughes, K. L., Jeong, D. W., & Bailey, T. R. (2007). The Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States. Saint Paul, MN: The University of Minnesota, National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.)

I urge you to check out the options in your state. Every child deserves a college education, and I believe it’s required to survive and thrive in today’s economy.

Don’t wait until they’re in high school to begin working toward this goal. Urge your children to read. Encourage them to study. It’s one of the most important things you can do as a parent.



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