The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 9, 2013

St. James students get a jump on college classes at high school

ST. JAMES — St. James High School senior Emily Hurley got a jump on college last year, taking three college classes through Minnesota State University.

But unlike the traditional Post-Secondary Educational Options Program — in which high school juniors and seniors actually leave their high schools to essentially begin college early free of charge — Hurley opted to stay a student at St. James High School. She’s in sports year-round, she’s in theater, she’s in the National Honor Society, and she’s saving thousands of dollars on general education credits that she would have paid for had she waited to attend college after high school.

“I think I could have made it work (going PSEO), but I think, looking back at it now, I’m happy that I did stay here,” Hurley said.

St. James High School is part of a growing trend to encourage dual enrollment in both high school and college courses, which keeps students at their high schools while still giving them a jump-start on college, said Principal Ted Simon. Like with PSEO, the college courses are free to students but are taught by certified high school teachers.

The program is so popular in St. James that, in 2012, 42 of 83 seniors (about 51 percent) were taking the college courses offered at the school, Simon said. In 2011, it was 45 of 92 students, or about 49 percent.

Hurley is a great example of why St. James High has been pushing dual enrollment over PSEO. Simon said the seniors are the leaders of the school, they add a great deal to the school’s culture, and the school doesn’t want to lose them early.

“We want to keep our kids here,” Simon said. “A lot of our students are in activities — band and choir, in sports — and they participate in the everyday activities of being in school.”

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