PSEO is taking learning to a new degree

Students, parents can learn more about earning college credit while in high school at a March 7 meeting

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Photo: Lily Condron

Fairmont juniors Alexis Reed (left) and Alyssa Pestian pose outside Sinclair Community College, where they attend classes as PSEO students. Reed raves about her Sinclair experience. “Taking classes at Sinclair Community College makes me feel like an adult,” she said. “I feel responsible and better prepared for college and my future.”

The typical Fairmont teen may dream of getting to leave school early, but about 25 students have figured out how to do it regularly. The only catch is that these PSEO students are leaving to attend college classes.

Fairmont’s Post Secondary Enrollment Option allows students to take college classes and earn college credit and high school credit at the same time.

Fairmont has roughly 2,350 students, but only about 1 percent are enrolled in PSEO. “I believe there are so few Fairmont students in PSEO because of the array of courses Fairmont already provides,” said David Elliott, chairman of Fairmont’s Guidance Department. “With all the AP and IB classes we have, not as many students are having a need to seek more advanced courses.”

PSEO is open to any student who wants to attend as long as he or she meets a few requirements. Students must have a 2.5 or higher GPA at the time of the sign-up and must carry at least a 3.0 GPA in the college class.

Students may attend any college of their choosing except proprietary (for profit) colleges such as ITT Tech. Students also must be able to arrange their own transportation between the school and college. “Most students use the RTA buses to get between Fairmont and Sinclair,” said Elliott.

Students can also drive if they have the means to do so. “I drive every day from the school to Sinclair,” said junior Maddie Wuebben.

If accepted, Fairmont will pay the tuition to allow the student to attend the college of his/her choice. Elliott explained that the school allots a certain amount of money toward each student’s education each year. “The state gives the school so much money per student, which then gets divided among their classes to pay for the student’s education. The money is divided into 7 different groups, one for each class,” he said.

So say the state gave the school $700 in funding per student; $100 would go toward each of the student’s classes to pay for various classroom fees at Fairmont. When in PSEO, though, the school takes the amount given for that class and pays the college with that. The college would get only $100 for a course that could cost $900 or more.

Elliott strongly believes that PSEO is a good idea for some students because of the amount of money they could save in the long run. “There are students who have more than 58 college credits earned, which would end up being tens of thousands of dollars saved after you’ve graduated from college,” he said. “There even is a student who has saved more than $50,000.”

PSEO can save money, but students should take extra care to not fail the class, because if they should, the school will not pay for it. Students and their parents will have to pay for it out of pocket. “A mistake can be a very costly mistake,” said Elliott.

There are many other reasons why someone might do PSEO, rather than just for saving money in the long run. “I want to attend a Christian college, but I learned AP courses wouldn’t transfer, so I looked into PSEO,” said Wuebben.

Credit is given per semester hour. For example, if a student takes a PSEO class at Sinclair, he or she will earn 3 college semester hours and a half credit at Fairmont. A college class that awards 5 semester hours is worth one credit at Fairmont.

Elliott says PSEO students should also be aware that all of Fairmont’s rules apply, even in the college environment, because the class is considered a school-sponsored event. “If a student was at Sinclair and was seen smoking, we would have to go through all the same disciplinary actions as if they were here at Fairmont smoking,” said Elliott.

During the fall semester, Wuebben took two classes at Fairmont and four classes at Sinclair. She believes PSEO is a really good program. “It allows you to experience high school while experiencing college at the same time,” she said.

Wuebben also believes her PSEO classes are easier than many of her high school classes. “You’ve already learned a lot of what they are teaching at colleges because Fairmont’s teachers prep you incredibly well, and the classes are really repetitive,” she said. In addition, Wuebben said she feels the classes are a lot more relaxed at Sinclair than at Fairmont.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, 2014, Fairmont will host an informational meeting in the Recital Hall for anyone interested in participating in PSEO next year. Interested students interested should come with their parents to learn about the various courses they can take with PSEO.

“I’d like to encourage more students to come and attend the meeting to learn about joining this program,” said Elliott. “I believe it can save a lot of money in the long run, and it is definitely worth it if you can keep up.”