More minority students taking PSEO courses

Participation from students of color up 53 percent since 2007-08

Alejandro Hernandez, Minneapolis Roosevelt High School
Janie Xiong, St. Paul Harding Senior High School

MINNESOTA’S MINORITY students are increasingly taking college classes during high school, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

In 1985, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to establish Post-Secondary Enrollment Options for students in high school, allowing them to earn college credit without having to pay tuition.

Twenty years later, a 2005 University of Minnesota report found that minorities were under-represented in the program. Efforts since then have shown progress.

Minority students taking PSEO has risen 53.4 percent since 2007–08, from 841 students to 1,290 in 2014, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. White students’ participation increased by 22 percent in those same years.

Issraa El-Khatib headshotIssraa El-Khatib, 16, an upcoming senior at Blaine High School, can appreciate the difference. A Muslim who was born in the United States and spent a few years in Palestine and Jordan, El-Khatib is taking courses at the University of Minnesota through PSEO. Most of her friends in the program are minorities, too.

“I think that it would be a great opportunity for minority students to get involved with PSEO,” El-Khatib said. “Being on campus is great because it’s diverse and people are really open to that diversity… .”

The state-funded program, administered through the Department of Education, allows juniors and seniors to take college classes. More than 7,000 Minnesota public high school students took college courses last year through PSEO, according to the Department of Education.

“It grows every year,” said Beth Barsness of the Minnesota Department of Education, who provides guidance for families and districts. In 2008, 5,545 students took college courses through PSEO in Minnesota, compared to 7,029 in 2014.

El-Khatib started the program as a junior and so far has earned 30 college credits. She wants to go to medical school, and the program is helping her get a headstart and save money.

“I wish more people knew about it,” said El-Khatib, who learned about the program because her sister had done it.

Schools need to be more encouraging to students, including minorities, about the program’s benefits, she said.

“If my sister didn’t know about it, I probably wouldn’t know about it,” she said.