It is no secret that as our society has developed, the need for a college degree has become more and more important. At the same time the cost of a college education has gone up substantially. In general, tuition costs average about an 8% increase per year. This is compounded by the fact that as many state governments have faced budgetary crises, often funding for state universities has been among the areas that have seen cuts.
The sad consequence of this is that many college seniors are now graduating with a tremendous burden of debt. College loans are often promoted as “good debt” which they can easily repay when they have their degree and are pursuing their chosen profession. I have worked though with college graduates who have found the job market not as rosy as they had hoped and I’m pretty confident they no longer see anything “good” about the debt they are struggling with.
So, if it is important to have a college degree but the cost of tuition continues to sky rocket what is the answer?
Post Secondary Enrollment Options
Ohio, the state where I live, and Minnesota offer a program called Post Secondary Enrollment Options. PSEO is a great deal for young folks who will be attending college.
Basically, PSEO is a program that allows young people in high school to take college courses while still in high school. These courses when passed then count for both high school credit and college credit.
Advantages of PSEO
- The first and biggest advantage of the Post Secondary Enrollment Options program is the price. These courses are free of charge for students in Ohio and Minnesota.
- Many times students must take the same general requirements type courses in both high school and college. This program provides a great opportunity to get those college general requirements out of the way while fulfilling the required curriculum for both high school and college.
- Many colleges and universities now offer courses online. It may be possible to take advantage of online courses for your PSEO credits.
- Depending on how many classes you are able to take you may be able to graduate high school with an associates degree as well, or in some cases very close to getting your bachelors degree.
Obviously any solution has plusses and minuses and this is no different.
- It requires a mature student. While it is true you may take similar courses in high school and college, it is likely the college level course will be more difficult and require more work. Personally, I recall taking an early American Literature class in high school and another very similar class in college. I enjoyed the college class so much more. Some of that was due to having an outstanding professor in the college class, but I’ve always thought some of my better understanding came simply from having another 3 or 4 years of life experience.
- If you can not fulfill your requirements through online classes, you will need to provide your own transportation to a local college to take the classes.
- Parents need to be aware young students will possibly be sitting in classes with much older college students. You will need to be active and involved to make sure your child is in a safe environment.
- The program that allows for free classes only applies to students who have not yet graduated from high school. Once you have your high school diploma, you are no longer eligible for the program.
- Sometimes young people struggle to know what they want to do with their lives in their college years. This may push those decisions back to an even younger age. For this reason, I’d recommend that this program be used for general credits that would be required regardless of the major chosen.
A great option for some
I admit this may not be the best option for everyone. Parents will need to know and guide their children to make sure they don’t become overwhelmed. Your school guidance counselor should be able to help with these decisions as well.
For many though this is a great way to shave potentially a year or two off your college education and do so for little to no expense. Imagine what it would be like to know that you really only had to attend college for classes related to your major because your general requirements were pretty much completed. This could literally save you tens of thousands of dollars.
What if I’m not from Ohio or Minnesota?
So you say well that’s sounds great. Too bad I don’t live in Ohio or Minnesota.
While it is an absolutely great deal if you live in one of those states. (I mean, it’s hard to beat free!), many states do have similar programs available that allow for dual enrollment. While not free, these programs allow students to obtain college credits at a significant discount.
Second I would say if you live in another state, contact your state representatives and ask if there are any plans to develop similar programs in your state. Encourage them to look into it.
Don’t fall into the “good debt” trap
I strongly believe in the value of a good education, I just don’t want that education to become a ball and chain that leaves you enslaved for years to come. Especially when it doesn’t have to be that way. Be creative about finding ways to get that education without a mountain of debt. Post Secondary Enrollment Options or other dual enrollment programs are one great way to do this.
Have you or your children taken advantage of dual enrollment programs? Leave a comment and let me know about your experiences.
Photo credit: Spazzgirl555 (creative commons)