Students can dramatically cut their college tuition bills by taking some of their courses while still in high school.
One way: the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Option, which allows high school freshmen through seniors to get credit at the high school and college level for courses they take through a local college.
The 23-year-old program is one of several statewide that offer advanced courses to secondary schoolers.
The PSEO program operates in many ways statewide, but this much is true everywhere: It is a financial bonanza for the student because the state pays for the college course.
Statewide, about 16,300 students took PSEO courses in 2010-11, according to the Ohio Department of Education. That is 9 percent over the previous year, a tide that has been rising for the past several years.
Still, the PSEO isn’t used as often as it could be, said Rebecca Watts, associate vice chancellor for secondary school initiatives at the Ohio Board of Regents, which coordinates higher education statewide.
While most school districts have PSEO programs, often fewer than 10 students take the college-level courses. In 2010-11, all of the Stark County districts reflected that low level of participation, with the exception of Tuslaw, where 11 students enrolled in PSEO courses.
“The level of awareness is not where it needs to be,” Watts said. “We want to make the program more straightforward.”
In the Akron-Canton area, Medina County had the highest number of students taking PSEO courses, starting with 122 at Medina High, 84 at Brunswick and 61 at Wadsworth.
Some districts offer PSEO courses on their properties; others require students to commute to a college campus.
There is also a disincentive for the district to push PSEO courses, at least on paper.
Districts lose money from the state based on the number of PSEO courses that its students take.
The theory is that the district doesn’t have to shoulder that part of the student’s education because the college or university is.
Watts said districts typically lose money when students take PSEO courses, but she did not know how much.
While students might need extra maturity to tackle college courses while in their teens, they shave the amount of time they must spend in college to get a degree and get a jump-start on their career.
But they also must do well. If they fail the college courses or withdraw after the deadline, the college or university might bill them for the course.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.