Completing college in two to three years may seem unattainable, but a growing number of northeast Ohio students are making it happen. Post Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP) allows ninth through 12th-graders an opportunity to earn high school and college credit at the same time through successful completion of college courses. This program, established two decades ago, has recently seen a substantial rise in enrollment.
University of Akron director of admissions Diane Raybuck says there were 88 more students than last year enrolled in UA’s 2009 PSEOP. “That’s a 12 percent increase.” From 2007 to 2009, PSEOP enrollment size doubled at UA, from 399 students to 806 today. “Many of these students are coming in with a full year of course work or more completed when beginning college,” says Raybuck.
Pete Ross, vice president of enrollment management at Cuyahoga Community College, says: “Our PSEOP enrollment is close to 2,000 students district wide. That’s about an 18 percent increase over last year. The economic impact has a whole lot to do with more students currently entering this program. Parents are realizing high school students can get up to two years of college completed at no cost to them, and that includes books. A four-year education then becomes more attainable. It’s a pretty good deal.”
Private institutions such as Baldwin-Wallace College limit PSEOP enrollment, but Patricia Skrha, B-W’s director of undergraduate admissions, says she is seeing an increase in the number of students applying, mainly due to lack of funding in the public school system. “Districts like Parma have severely cut course offerings. These students may not be able to get courses they need in high school, such as higher levels of math, science or foreign language, so they are forced to look for another option.”
The program has state-mandated admission requirements and some colleges have the discretion to set even higher standards. According to the Ohio Department of Education, accepted students must select one of two choices: Option A: The participant is responsible for all costs and receives college credit only, which is not averaged into the high school GPA; Option B: The school district covers cost of tuition, fees and books and the student receives high school and college credit, which is averaged into high school GPA. If a student fails a class, s/he then becomes responsible for all costs.
A large portion of the state cost for this program is not an additional expenditure. Money allocated for public high schools is redirected to an institution of higher education providing PSEOP. This program is not a money maker for colleges, but Raybuck says: “We feel strongly about offering PSEOP because it gives opportunities for some students that may not have thought about college to actually experience it, and then they realize they can do it. It goes along with the Ohio Board of Regents’ goal, which is to get more students into college and earn degrees, essential for our state to compete globally.”
While most PSEOP students typically take general education courses such as math, sciences, and arts and humanities, the program is open-ended, which means students may elect to take any college course. “For the right student who has exhausted the possibilities at his or her school, this is an opportunity to continue to challenge themselves,” says Skrha, “especially for those interested in a particular subject not offered at their high school.”
B-W freshman Lindsey Mercer says, “I got to participate in courses that I was interested in like intro to theater and music theory.” She earned 12 college credits while attending Brunswick High School, which gives her the chance to graduate B-W sooner, reducing her total financial cost.
“We don’t track students after completing PSEOP,” explains Ross, “but based on transcripts we send to colleges for these students, we believe a bulk of them do go on to get their bachelor’s degree, and about 90 percent of them stay in Ohio. I can’t see the program doing anything but continuing to go up [in enrollment], and as the word gets out more about the chance to defer college cost, it will definitely become a more viable program.”
For more information on PSEOP, contact your child’s guidance counselor or visit the Ohio Department of Education at www.ode.state.oh.us.