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College-level curriculum challenges high school students

Park Rapids Area High School students are taking the opportunity to challenge themselves while earning credits with College in the Classroom.

"It's a fabulous avenue for students to pick up some credits and it gives them a head start when they go to college," said high school counselor Susan Rassier.

College in the Classroom courses in Park Rapids include composition, public speaking, psychology, college algebra, application suite software, anatomy and physiology and physics.

The high school is working with three schools for the courses: University of Minnesota Crookston, Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls and Bemidji State University.

"There are some students who try to squeeze in as many as possible, which gets to be a heavy load," Rassier said.

A benefit of the program is that students can take the classes without leaving home and still get to experience high school.

"I would say they're equal to or better than what a lot of kids will take in college," Rassier said.

For example, the physics class uses the same syllabus as Bemidji State University, said principal Al Judson.

Students must have a B average to enroll in a college course.

Advanced Placement classes are also offered and include calculus AB and world history.

The number of credits colleges will give for each class depends on the school but can range from three to six credits.

A number of students are saving money by earning enough credits equal to a semester or a year at college. Depending on whether a student picks a public or private school, a year of tuition can be about $6,000 at BSU or about $24,000 at Concordia College, Judson said.

Beyond getting some college out of the way, students will get priority in registering for more advanced classes.

"We're also proud of the number of students staying here instead of going PSEO," Judson said of post secondary education options.

This year there is only one student doing PSEO, he said. Last year there were three students.

"I think most kids want to stay," Rassier said. "They want to be active in sports, fine arts and a lot of activities. This allows them to do both."

Rassier said students who are starting college can apply for the Minnesota Achieve Scholarship. The scholarship must be applied for within 30 days of starting college.

Students need to send a transcript to the office of higher education, she said. Scholarships range from $1,200 to $4,000 based on financial need and the rigor of coursework taken in high school.

For more information, go to www.getreadyforcollege.

org/achieve or call 1-800-657-3866.

Tanya Miller teaches two college composition courses and public speaking at the high school.

One of her composition classes focuses on the process of writing. Students are required to write four essays with several drafts.

They each have a writing partner and a writing group.

"That seems to help out a lot and be more cooperative," Miller said.

She has had a lot of students contact her after they are in college to thank her.

"Many have e-mailed me and said 'thank you for teaching me how to write,'" Miller said. "You find that they're that much farther ahead of those who didn't have a course like this."

Her classes are also smaller than many freshmen writing courses, which helps, she said.

"It helps money-wise and academically," Miller said. "It's nice to have this opportunity for students who want to challenge themselves more."