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South Tama students save big money with college classes

February 21, 2014
By Sydney Upah - Chronicle Correspondent , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

What parent wouldn't like to save thousands of dollars on their teenager's college education? At South Tama County High School, parents have saved $192,618 on tuition this year alone because their children have enrolled in PSEO classes through the local community college.

The PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) program, which is run primarily through Marshalltown Community College, allows STC high school juniors and seniors to take classes online or on campus for both high school and college credit.

In the fall of 2013, 86 high school students from South Tama took classes for college credit and saved $96,483 on college tuition. This spring, the number increased to 91 students who saved $96,135. That adds up to approximately 1100 collee credits earned by STC students for a total savings of $192,618 for just one year. If the number of students enrolling in dual credit courses continues to increase, students and parents are estimated to save approximately one million dollars over a five-year time frame.

"Dan Lopez does an excellent job in promoting dual credits to his students at STC," said Marshalltown Community College High School Relations/Student Success Specialist, Connie Gardalen. "In the past two years, the number of credits that STC students have taken has nearly doubled from 636 credits in 2011 to 1107 credits in 2013. The students at STCHS are given a wonderful opportunity to begin their college careers by taking classes at STC, online or on the MCC campus for college credit."

Along with the savings of both cost and time, PSEO classes also help improve the transition from high school to college, allowing students to get the feel of college before actually attending. In addition, students are encouraged to try classes outside their areas of interest since they often are still trying to choose a major and may not be sure what classes interest them when they get to campus.

"The benefits that come from enrolling in these classes are endless," said Dan Lopez, STCHS Guidance Counselor. "Because PSEO classes are free, it is becoming more common for students to graduate high school with a year or more of college already completed, all at no cost."

"I feel like I will have such a huge advantage next year when I get to college," said high school senior Ali Vavra. "When I walk onto campus in the fall for the first time, I will already be a sophomore in terms of credits."

This year, Vavra is in the process of completing seven PSEO classes. With an average of $174 per credit, Vavra has saved approximately $3,654 on her college education during her senior year alone. With her plans to attend MCC for her associates degree and then transfer to niversity of Iowa to become a clinical psychologist, PSEOs have given Vavra a cost-free head start on these goals.

"PSEO classes give you an idea of what college professors are expecting for work, and they make you responsible for your own work. There's no teachers to nag or remind you," added Vavra.

"Having students take college classes helps build confidence, saves families money, and most importantly, gives our kids the opportunity to continue being life-long learners in a very competitive workforce," said Lopez, "We couldn't do any of this without the great relationship we have with MCC."

Gardalen agreed, adding, "MCC appreciates the partnership that we have with STC High School students."

Students and parents who are interested in learning more about the PSEO classes available through MCC should plan to attend an informational meeting on Thursday, February 27 at 6:00 pm in the high school media center.



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