Tackling PSEO Obstacles

Starting the college journey holds immense potential and opportunities, yet it can also seem overwhelming and financially challenging for many students. High school students are often unfamiliar with college coursework and campus life, so the transition may appear daunting.

That’s why Jered Pigeon, Director of MSUM’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, received a grant from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MN OHE) to understand the experiences of underrepresented high school students as it relates to dual enrollment programs. Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to earn college credit while in high school and serve as a pathway to higher education. Credentialed instructors teach courses at the high school and credits count toward the student’s graduation requirements.

Pigeon led a team from Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Moorhead Public Schools (MPS) to hold listening sessions with diverse students in Moorhead’s high school and alternative learning center. The goal was to understand better how colleges and universities can attract and serve low-income and students of color in dual enrollment offerings, such as the Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) program.

“This is an issue of addressing inequity,” he says. “The stories they shared about PSEO hesitations explained the barriers education systems may put in place unintentionally.”

The sessions shed light on some obstacles students face when attempting PSEO credits. For example, because of close class scheduling, students may not have transportation to and from campus or struggle with meals.

“It’s asset-based thinking versus deficit-based thinking. Instead of viewing a student as unmotivated or having poor time management, we need to see it through the lens of addressing the root cause of what is holding them back,” Pigeon says. “That way we can see how we can better set students up for success.

Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) Program

These discussions will set the foundation for implementing improved strategies to remove obstacles PSEO students may have.

Varoon Khalil successfully navigates PSEO

Varoon Khalil, an MSUM communication studies major, believes PSEO classes set her on the path to success in college.

As a Moorhead High School student, Varoon took 11 courses through MSUM’s PSEO program. The college environment allowed her to take enriching classes not typically provided in a high school setting, such as archeology, public speaking, and astronomy. She was also more engaged in classroom discussions.

“In my high school classes, no one wanted to participate in discussions, and I felt peer pressure not to participate,” she says. “In my MSUM classes, students were eager to express their opinions on a topic. It was refreshing to see people excited to attend and participate in class.”

Varoon’s positive PSEO experience encouraged her to continue studying at MSUM to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I chose MSUM because I loved the environment, the classes, and the people. Everyone was so nice to me and helpful when I was in PSEO. Even now, as a full-time student, whenever I ask for help, I receive the same care from people.”

Pigeon is among a large contingency of MSUM faculty and staff committed to helping students enjoy a positive college experience, whether exploring opportunities through PSEO or working toward a college degree.

Varoon advises high school students to take PSEO credits if they can.

“It’s 100 percent worth it,” she says. “Your future self will thank you.”

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