High school offers dual enrollment opportunities
May 27, 2022
Stillwater Area High School offers a variety of dual enrollment opportunities for students to earn college-level credits while still in high school. Among the seven offered credit options, Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), College In the Schools (CIS) and Advanced Placement (AP) are the most popular among students. All credit options have advantages and disadvantages, as one option may fit a student better than another.
PSEO is a program offered to grades 10-12 to earn both high school and college credit through a post-secondary institution. PSEO courses are offered on the campus of the institution and students can choose to enroll either part-time or full-time.
There are different requirements for each institution and grade level. The general guidelines for PSEO at community colleges are that there are career and technical classes that are open to 10th graders if they meet requirements.
As juniors, “you have to be in the top third of your class since we don’t do official rank. It’s the top three decile rankings and as seniors, they have to be in the top half of the graduating class and then go through the application process. So the requirements get in are top third and top half. You have to be a junior or senior and those same requirements are basically for our CIS classes here at the high school. More restrictive institutions have different applications like the University of Minnesota or Northwestern,” counselor Dan Ralston explained.
PSEO classes are transferred from the post-secondary institution back to the high school for unweighted credit. High school credits earned will depend on how many credits were taken at the institution. As long as the student passes their course, they will earn both high school and college credits.
Any classes taken at a PSEO college transfer back to the high school for half the credit taken. An example of this is composition at Century College, a four-credit class that comes back as two high school credits and counts as a year of English, so a one-semester four-credit class comes back as a year of English at the high school, Ralston explained.
Students interested in taking any PSEO classes must register to either Century College, Northwestern, or the University of Minnesota by either the college’s final application date or by June 1 so their counselor can sign off on the student’s application. The Minnesota Department of Education requires students to provide written notice of intent to participate in PSEO to Stillwater Area High School by May 31 each year.
“Spring is your time to apply to PSEO. Technically June 1. You have to have your stuff done before June 1, otherwise, the high school can choose not to sign your admissions or your eligibility requirement. Most of the time, if you can get a hold of one of us counselors in the summer, people will sign off on [the eligibility requirement] if you meet the criteria. But the state says that once we hit June one, high schools have the opportunity to say no, for at least for the first semester,” Ralston said.
The high school currently offers three CIS courses: Animal Sciences, French Langauge and Human Anatomy and Physiology. Credits are transferred from the University of Minnesota to the high school and give students weighted credit.
When students sign up for CIS classes at the beginning of the year, they have to register as University of Minnesota students. “So they have an account at the U of M, they have access to U of M resources, and online libraries. So they’re officially students at the U of M, and when they’re done, they will get a grade from the U of M and it will be on their official transcripts. If students stay at the U of M, they don’t have to do anything, those credits will just keep going on their transcript. If they go anywhere else, what they have to typically do is they have to have a transcript sent from the U of M to whatever their colleges, and then they also have to submit a copy of the course syllabus to their school so that they can compare it,” Doug Long, CIS Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher said.
CIS classes, much like APs are taught inside SAHS, however unlike AP classes, CIS does not have an end-of-year assessment, and the student’s final grade will show on their University of Minnesota transcript. CIS classes may have prerequisites set by the University of Minnesota and students must pass any required prerequisites with a B or better.
CIS classes are taught at the high school by high school staff. “I think that is the best of both worlds because we don’t lose you as students to somewhere else. You don’t have to worry about different schedules. You have the team and the support of your high school, but you’re still doing the rigorous challenging work and you’re getting credit for it. So that’s a push that I think we should be doing more of,” Ralston added.
SAHS offers 18 courses through AP, students who complete the AP course at the high school, and pass the accompanying AP exam with a score of a three or higher, may be able to earn college credit at post-secondary institutions. To take the end-of-year AP test, students do not have to take the AP class. Students have no fees to take the course, but do have an AP test fee of $96 per test.
“Anybody can take any AP test as long as they sign up, pay the fee and register on time. The catch is they have to study on their own. Sometimes people will critique and say, ‘Well, I’ll just take the test. Why would I take the course?’ but it definitely prepares you better. I would argue the test puts too much emphasis put on the test itself. Not all schools take credit for it. But for me, it’s not that’s not the goal. The goal is every day in class, what kind of an experience is that student getting? Will it help challenge them to be ready for college? Also, to have high-level discussions and a high level of rigor, which they may not get in a regular class. That to me is always more the goal than the actual test,” AP Government teacher Matthew Bergquist said.
AP classes expose students to a college-level workload, while still in high school so students should expect an average of 1-2 hours of homework a night, depending on the class. Students can take whichever classes they qualify for starting in ninth grade as long as any prerequisite classes are taken and students have been approved by their prerequisite teacher.
“It’s open to any student that feels like they want the challenge. However, what the school typically does is, is they share a list of all students that had signed up for AP courses, with the teachers from that previous grade that just is ending. So students who might want to go into my AP gov as a senior, are signing up as an 11th grader, the 11th-grade teachers would look through the list and say, do I have concerns about a student? Yes, getting all D’s didn’t pass any AP classes or has never taken an AP class. They don’t restrict and say no automatically. They talk with the counselor, they talk with the student and say, Do you know what to expect? You know, and just kind of make sure they’re aware of the workload and kind of what it looks like. And sometimes they kind of try to persuade them to a more manageable schedule, but technically it’s not restricted to anybody,” Bergquist said.
It’s not about the test at the end. It’s about what did you gain to help you be able to do better in college, in that nine-month period.”
— Matthew Bergquist
“It’s not about the test at the end. It’s about what did you gain to help you be able to do better in college, in that nine-month period,” Bergquist concluded.