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PSEO expansion sought

Published (3/9/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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Post-secondary enrollment options for high-school aged students could become available to a broader range of learners, starting this year.

PSEO is a program that allows juniors and seniors to take college courses as a substitute for their schools’ classes. Current statute limits enrollment in the program to high-achieving students. Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) believes that students who don’t meet that requirement should have the chance to take one PSEO course, with the opportunity to continue in PSEO if they are successful.

His bill, HF2025, would also incorporate vocational and technical education into PSEO by encouraging secondary and post-secondary institutions to form educational partnerships with local entrepreneurs. The bill would establish a task force to advise the Legislature how to best include career and technical education into instruction.

The House Education Reform Committee approved the bill on March 6, sending it to the House Education Finance Committee.

Proponents explained that expanding PSEO would make it more inclusive for Minnesota students. Tony Simmons, program director at the High School for Recording Arts, hopes the bill would decrease the academic achievement gap, especially minority students and those whose parents did not attend college.

“I can say to you, from experience, that creating a college-going culture by use of PSEO makes a huge difference,” Simmons said.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) also supports the bill, but stressed caution when moving forward in the legislative process. He noted that the Senate companion allows for further opening of PSEO, allowing for-profit schools to qualify as PSEO-approved colleges.

“I know a number of these institutions and greatly appreciate what they do and the quality of their work. But I also know a number of them who are the opposite,” Mariani said.

Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury) also spoke in support of the bill, which continues to limit PSEO to high school juniors and seniors. She worried that increasing the program to those in younger grades would open college courses to students who are not prepared.

Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) sponsors the companion, SF1531. It awaits action by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

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