Josh Crosson is MinnCAN’s advocacy manager.

Ask someone on the street if they know what PSEO is, and they’d likely say that they have no idea. But tell them that it could cut the cost of college in half, and they’d probably start to pay attention.

Informing kids and their families about Post-Secondary Enrollment Options and the money it could save is one of Rep. Linda Slocum’s (DFL-50A) goals for the 2014 state legislative session. Rep. Slocum’s straightforward bill, HF 2942, would allow colleges and universities to explain how PSEO, a state-funded program, could help high school students and their families afford college. Many education advocates, including the Center for School Change and MinnCAN, support Rep. Slocum’s measure.

PSEO enables 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders to earn college credit while still in high school. By taking college classes online or on campus—again, through funding from the state—PSEO students graduate with both high school diplomas and college credit, giving them a significant head start on college.

There’s no question that high costs prevent many kids from attending or completing college. After financial assistance and scholarships, my own bachelor’s degree came with a price tag of $75,000, with an interest rate similar to that of a credit card. A lot of people in similar situations are probably kicking themselves now that they know PSEO was an option to help them fund college.

But it’s no accident that they were not aware of this option.

PSEO launched in 1985, and some have been calling for its head ever since. While opponents have not been able to get rid of PSEO, they’ve weakened the law to thwart its full implementation. One restriction, for example, dictates that a college can provide information to students and parents about PSEO, but only pertaining to the program’s academic benefits. In other words, a university can tell high school students they can earn college credit, but would be stepping in a big mess of legal grey area if they discussed PSEO’s financial benefits.

This gag rule has essentially made PSEO an insider’s game. Kids and families often learn about PSEO—and the money it could save them—from former participants in their community. But what if nearly everyone in a community is oblivious to the program?

And in large part to this gag rule, kids of color and low-income students have been historically underrepresented in PSEO programs. They’ve been left in the dark—made to feel that the pathway to college is off-limits and expensive—and are unaware that PSEO can get them closer to a college degree.

But there’s a simple solution…

Rep. Slocum, the Center for School Change, MinnCAN and others are advocating to remove restrictive language from current law, and let colleges and universities advertise and recruit for PSEO based on all of the program’s merits—including the thousands of dollars it could save families and students.

Right now, the Minnesota Legislature is considering Rep. Slocum’s measure to remove the PSEO gag rule as part of a comprehensive education policy package. Please contact your legislator today, and let them know that you support PSEO and advertising the program to all Minnesota kids and families. This simple fix would remove the mystery from PSEO and make a huge difference for thousands of college-hopefuls.


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