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Enrollment climbs in Rochester's post-secondary enrollment option, declines in Advanced Placement

In the fall of 2017, there were 606 students in PSEO. This fall, that number was at 1,083.

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Rochester Public Schools
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Enrollment in one college-preparation program has rapidly increased, while participation in another has started to decline. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of opportunities for high school students to get a jumpstart on their college educations.

Rochester Public Schools recently released data about the number of students taking part in the various post-secondary programs.

“There are many options,” said Brenda Wichmann, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

By student population, the largest of those programs is Advanced placement. According to the district, “students can earn credit, advanced placement, or both, for college,” by completing AP exams.

Overall, there are 1,700 students involved in AP courses. Of them, 1,132, or 66.5% are white, 16.8% are Asian, 6.4% are Black, and just more than 4% are Latino.

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The number of students taking AP classes has decreased in recent years. In the fall of 2018, there were 2,104 students taking them. By this fall, that number had decreased by just more than 400 students to 1,700.

“The amount of work, for some, can be excessive,” Wichmann said. “And the test can be really intimidating... And if they don’t do well on the test, you’re not going to get that credit at the end.”

Another well-known option is Post Secondary Enrollment Option, often known as PSEO. Overall, there are 1,083 students in PSEO. That option allows older high school students to attend a college or university, earning both college credit while also finishing up their high school requirements.

Of the total number of Rochester students in PSEO, 70.9% are white, 5.3% are Asian, 9.2% are Black, and 5.6% are Hispanic.

Unlike the number of students taking advanced placement courses, the PSEO program has grown considerably during the last four years. In the fall of 2017, there were 606 students in PSEO. By this fall, that number was 1,083.

Another option provided by the school is called “articulated credit,” which, by sheer numbers, is the largest of the post-secondary programs offered by Rochester Public Schools. According to the district, that option is essentially specific to Rochester Community and Technical College and allows “students enrolled in specific RPS courses to earn college credit that can be applied once the students enrolls at RCTC.”

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Overall, there are 1,264 students enrolled in articulated credit. Of those students, 60% are white, 7.5% are Asian, 12% are Hispanic, and 13.3% are Black.

Overall at the high school level, 58.7% of the students are white, 10.3% are Asian, 10.7% are Hispanic, and 14.5% are Black.

There also are smaller options students can take. With the program College in the Schools, upperclassmen can take University of Minnesota courses while still in their physical high schools. Meanwhile, classes in the program Project Lead the Way “are nationally standardized project-based courses that prepare students for college-level work” according to the district.

Wichmann spoke briefly about some of the reasons why students might choose one program over another. For example, she said there are a couple reasons why students would shy away from PSEO.

“For some students, transportation is a real barrier, obviously,” she said. “And they just want to stay at their high school… they feel connected. They want to take classes from their teachers.”

College Credit Options by inforumdocs on Scribd

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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