January, 2017

For teenagers who feel they’ve tapped out what their high schools can offer, Bethel University offers an alternative. About 100 high schoolers are taking courses on the Arden Hills campus that allow them to complete their high school degrees — and get a jumpstart on college. The program that makes it possible is Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and it is available at many public and private colleges statewide.

Annie Goodyear was one of these students. She grew up in Minnetonka and is currently a Bethel undergraduate student. Goodyear already knew what she wanted her major to be when she was in high school and wanted to get a head start on a nursing degree. She heard from a friend about Bethel’s PSEO program. “For me, I knew that I wanted to do nursing and why not get a head start on it at Bethel because they are known for having a wonderful program,” Goodyear said. “The best part about this program was that I could get a full year of college done.”

The structure of Bethel’s program allows PSEO students to be college students, and students have the opportunity to live on campus. If they decide to, they are paired up with another PSEO student and live in a freshman dorm. They are also able to participate in extracurricular activities like sports and special interest clubs. PSEO students are allowed to take courses up to the 200 level, taught by professors alongside full-time undergraduate students. These courses count towards their high school diploma and are also college credits.

For PSEO students, it feels like they’re already in college, said Bret Hyder, Bethel’s director of admissions. “Unless they tell somebody that they are a PSEO student, everyone assumes they’re not,” Hyder said. “Their professors assume they aren’t a PSEO student. If they live on a residence floor, everyone presumes they’re a freshman. We really try to make it an immersive experience for students.”

Fifty percent of the PSEO students go on to attend Bethel, but all students who finish the program get a high school diploma and a unique alternative to traditional high school.

Among Minnesota’s private colleges, Bethel and Concordia University, St. Paul, are the two institutions that do the most work with PSEO students. According to a Minnesota Department of Education report, other private colleges that have awarded PSEO credits in the most recent year included Bethany Lutheran College, The College of St. Scholastica, Concordia College (Moorhead), Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and St. Catherine University.

For more information on PSEO at Bethel, check out Bethel’s website.

Learn about many ways that high school students can prepare for college-level work and even earn college credit while in high school.

By Tom Lancaster