It’s the law: Schools must inform students of college options but many are not

black couple doing presentation for studies in classroom
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Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) allows Minnesota public and charter school students grades 10-12 to take free college courses either online or on campus. Over 100,000 students have used it over the past three decades since the law was passed in 1985.

A new report by People for PSEO released last month looked at 390 district and charter websites and found that 60% are not following state law, which requires schools to provide “up-to-date” PSEO information.  

Despite constant reminders by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), the report also noted that many schools are withholding vital PSEO information or providing incomplete information:

  • 40% of school district websites are current and complying with state law.
  • 35 websites provided factually inaccurate information.
  • 72.5% of charter public schools are up-to-date, compared to 33% of public school districts.
  • 27 websites don’t provide any PSEO information.  

MDE offers school districts “suggested language” on PSEO that they essentially can cut and paste on their websites, including information that all PSEO courses are provided at no charge to students; that all courses must meet graduation requirements; and if a school district determines that a student is not on track to graduate, she/he may continue to participate in the PSEO program on a term-by-term basis.

People for PSEO Executive Director Zeke Jackson, who authored the report, said that incomplete or no PSEO information is a critical problem. He and other current and former PSEO students testified before the Minnesota Senate K-12 Education Policy Committee on March 23 in support of SF 4087, a bill co-authored by State Sen. Julia Coleman (R-Waconia).

“This bill proposes to further enhance the PSEO statute by eliminating limits on post-secondary institutions providing information to the high school students and parents through advertising and recruiting [and] requiring better reporting,” stated Coleman at the hearing.

Among the report’s recommendations are that MDE “should review and apply appropriate enforcement mechanisms to district and charter public schools that do not satisfy their statutory obligations.” 

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) was listed among 175 websites with missing PSEO information, according to the report. St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) was among the 153 school websites that was “correct and up to date.”

(l-r) Rani Mukherjee, Beatrice Handlin, Zeke Jackson, State Sen. Julia Coleman, Joe Nathan
Photo by Charles Hallman

The MSR examined the Minneapolis PSEO page and found its information up to date except for information that a student must have reasonable access to their high school building, computers, and other technology resources during regular school hours; and that the PSEO student can stay in the program even if the district determines that they are not on-track to graduate.

“MPS staff is currently analyzing our Post Secondary Enrollment Options website to determine what, if any, information is missing so it can be promptly added,” a spokesperson told the MSR. 

“MPS is committed to ensuring our students have all the necessary information related to PSEO so they can take advantage of this program to further advance their academic career. Ensuring access to opportunities for rigorous coursework such as PSEO for students across Minnesota is a priority for MDE,” said an MPS spokesperson.  

“Our approach is always to provide leadership, partnership, and support to school districts and charter schools to meet the needs of students and families as well as fulfill statutory requirements,” said an MDE spokesperson. “MDE regularly communicates and supports the expectation that up-to-date information about PSEO is available and accessible for students and families.”

PSEO “is one of the most powerful ways to close Minnesota’s shameful achievement gap,” said Center for School Change Director Joe Nathan. After he testified to legislators, he told the MSR, “It’s especially valuable for low-income and BIPOC families because it so clearly helps reduce the graduation gaps.”

The People for PSEO report cited research showing the Minnesota PSEO saves families more than $60 million per year.

Beatrice Handlin of White Bear Lake testified and afterward told the MSR, “This last year I graduated from White Bear Lake High School with 70 college credits because of the PSEO program and I saved about $60,000 roughly on my college education.”  

Handlin wants to see the Minnesota Legislature pass SF 4087 “because it will do so much for so many students across the state.”

“I’m doing full-time PSEO at the U of M,” added Wayzata student Rani Mukherjee, who is president of the University of Minnesota PSEO Student Association. “I’d really like to see this expanded program.”

Jackson said that among other things, the People for PSEO report brought to light that nearly one-half of the school districts throughout Minnesota aren’t following state PSEO law. This hurts students and families who might want to sign up for PSEO classes or are currently enrolled in such classes.

  “The PSEO program is really amazing for students,” he said. 

The full People for PSEO report can be found at peopleforpseo.org.

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