Doubling up: Students take advantage of opportunity to start college while still in high school

For many years now, the high school has been offering the opportunity to take courses at UNI and at Hawkeye for the students who want to jumpstart their college experience. This option is mainly used by seniors who have room in their day to add more classes and get a head start on their post high school life.

One exception to this is junior Margarita Meza who unlike most began taking classes at UNI as a sophomore and will continue to take the classes throughout her high school life. For Meza, she had tested out of high school Spanish as a sophomore and wanted to continue learning, so she decided to take college level Spanish.

“When I started taking UNI classes, I thought myself to be pretty cool, but it goes further than that. I’m working towards a Spanish minor right now, so I’m getting free credits, saving me time and money, so it’s a huge advantage, and I feel pretty accomplished,” Meza said.

Students are able to dual enroll classes with either Hawkeye or UNI while they are still in high school themselves. The classes that students can take are limited, though. To be able to take classes at the college level, students must either have exhausted the subject offerings that the high school provides or the class has to be different than any of the college level courses that are taught at the high school.

One of the students this year taking classes this year at Hawkeye is Kaylee Tomson, who has taken full advantage of this option by taking four classes at Hawkeye this year. Kaylee is taking American Diversity, Introduction to Ethics, Middle Eastern History and Culture and Nutrition. Since she had pretty much completed all her high school credit requirements, she is also enrolled in college level classes that are taught at the high school.

“I’m using my credits mainly just for the general education requirement, and my advice to anyone who is thinking about dual enrollment would be to definitely do it. It’s a good idea to get those classes out of the way if you know what you want to do,” Tomson said.

In order for students to be able to take classes at UNI, students have to be in the top one third in G.P.A of the school or have an ACT composite score of at least 24. For Hawkeye, students have to have passed the Compass tests in reading and writing to take any general education classes or in any other subject needed in that area of what they are choosing to take.

This opportunity has been given to students in the state for over 15 years now. This program is referred to as PSEOA. classes, which stands for Post Secondary Enrollment Option Act.   PSEOA classes are funded by the state of Iowa. During the spring, counselors find out how many students are planning on taking PSEOA classes and report to the state with the estimated numbers. Usually there are around 40 students signing up  to take the classes initially, but only around 20-25 students actually end up taking these classes just because they don’t have enough room in their schedules or just have other conflicts.

“The only drawback that I can think of is that you go into it not really knowing anyone, but it’s like that in college also, so you get to experience that also before anyone else,” Tomson said.

“The thing I’m preparing for is the bigger workload in these classes compared to the ones in high school, but I think I’m ready,” Meyer said.

“We can’t add any more students after we give the numbers to the state, so we need to know how many students are thinking about taking these classes beforehand. Each class is around $250 that the state funds. If any students decide not to take these classes or we have any leftover money, we just send it back to the state,” counselor Josh Carnelley said.

Students taking PSEOA classes can either take them at UNI or at Hawkeye, but most students end up taking these classes at UNI because it is so close to the high school, but there are always some students that find it more convenient to take them at Hawkeye. Usually there are roughly 28 students that go to  UNI and around 10 that take them at Hawkeye.

The planning of PSEOA. classes has already been done for the upcoming academic year, and around this time is when schedules are being finalized. For scheduling, it’s recommended that students leave about two periods open per class because it takes time to get to the schools, park, take the class and drive back to school each day.

“One thing that is sort of hectic for me is that I have to leave at different times on Tuesdays for my different classes. Hawkeye is a little further away, so it does take me a while, but I basically have all my high school credits, so I leave around 11 a.m. Last semester I was at Hawkeye taking classes until around 5 p.m.. but now since my classes are different, it’s like a normal school day because I get to leave around 3p.m.,” Tomson said.

“Well, this year I decided to take Monday night classes which are three hours long but making them night classes made it a lot easier to fit into my schedule. Normally I have them during fourth hour so I used up the longest hour of the day,” Meza said.
Another junior this year taking PSEOA classes next year is Kaili Meyer. She is taking two classes at UNI this fall: Humanities III and Introduction to Communications. She is going through the planning stages right now and is thinking ahead to her senior year.

“Some advice I would give out to everyone is don’t pile on the classes, if you’re already taking many AP and other stressful classes, don’t take too many other college classes and make your life too hard. This is a good idea if you want to explore your interests before you actually have to go to college. You find out what you want to go into and not waste so much money and time trying to figure it out later,” Meyer said.

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