Post-secondary enrollment can save on costs

Published 9:10 am Monday, April 12, 2010

Recently, Riverland Community College reconnected with a former student who graduated with an associate in arts degree in 2006. He continued his higher education at the University of Minnesota and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2008.

Zachary Paro’s Riverland story is not unusual unless you consider that he also graduated from Owatonna High School in 2006. Paro took advantage of the post-secondary enrollment options program offered at our campus in Owatonna.

The PSEO program is available to students throughout the state to promote “rigorous educational pursuits and provide a wider variety of options for students.”

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Through PSEO, students receive both high school and college credit for college courses completed. PSEO students may take courses on a college campus or at their high school if available. PSEO courses offered at the high school are commonly called concurrent enrollment courses.

The program was created for high school juniors or seniors who rank higher in their classes or receive an acceptable score on a nationally standardized, norm-referenced test, such as the ACT or SAT. For those who do not meet the eligibility criteria, an appeals process is available that may help them enter the program.

Paro decided to pursue PSEO by taking Riverland courses at the Owatonna College and University Center. He said this allowed him to become accustomed to increased freedom and responsibility at a younger age, in essence encouraging him to mature faster than he would have in the high school setting.

“Riverland and the OCUC have a very diverse student body, and being exposed to so many people of different ages, characters and cultures did nothing but good for me as a teenager,” Paro said. “This has had a positive effect on me socially, as it pulled me out of my comfort zone and forced me to adapt and prepare myself for later life experiences.”

The most obvious benefit to Paro, however, was financial. “I saved thousands of dollars — potentially tens of thousands — when taking into account room and board for two years at a university. I am 22 years old, have been at my job for over one year, and I have less than $5,000 in student loans.”

Many students choose to use a PSEO program to “get ahead.” In Albert Lea, we not only have students taking PSEO credits at Riverland, we also have a healthy partnership with Albert Lea High School to offer concurrent on their high school campus. In fact, 224 students take concurrent dual credit courses. We are grateful to the high school for offering higher education options to its students.

Paro’s advice to students interested in the program: “Plan early — the classes you decide to take in ninth or 10th grade can affect your options during 11th and 12th grade. It is better to make things as easy as possible through early planning.”

To learn more about Riverland’s PSEO choices, visit or set up an appointment with a Riverland admissions representative or counselor.

Terrence Leas is the president of Riverland Community College.