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Whites, Privileged Students Primary Beneficiaries Of Ohio Early College Program, Study Finds

A study of Ohio’s
Post Secondary Enrollment Options program finds that nine of 10 of its
participants are White, and most enrollees come from suburban rather than urban
or rural high school districts. The study by the KnowledgeWorks Foundation,
Ohio’s largest education philanthropy, also takes PSEO to task for lacking any
data showing PSEO’s positive impact on college outcomes. The study comes as the
Ohio General Assembly prepares to expand the program at the behest of
Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

“It’s certainly
worth celebrating that Ohio’s PSEO policy has allowed thousands of high school
students to earn college and high school credit at the same time at no cost to
them,” says Nancy Taylor, senior public policy officer with KnowledgeWorks.
However, “poor data has restricted the state’s ability to track such
fundamental matters as whether the policy encourages students who would not
otherwise have been college-bound to attend college.”

In fact,
according to the report, “The Promise of Dual Enrollment: Assessing Ohio’s
Early College Access Policy,” increasing access to college for underrepresented
groups is not the focus of PSEO, and KnowledgeWorks policy officer Dr. Greg
Harris considers that “a flaw in the policy.”

percentage of high school students is 15.5 percent African-American, but only
6.5 percent of those that actually accessed the policy were African-American.
Ninety percent are White, two-thirds of those are female and the students who
accessed the policy disproportionally hail from suburban districts,” Harris

 “We think this policy could have better impact
if it was more proactively geared to districts where you don’t have
traditionally college-bound populations — this is our urban districts and our
rural districts,” he continues. “The people who are accessing the policy in no
way reflect that population of the state, and that to us is an issue.”

PSEO was
launched in 1989 to pay for tuition and books for 11th- and 12th-grade Ohio
students who took college courses for high school and college credit. The
program was expanded in 1997 to cover 9th– and 10th-graders.
As part of his campaign platform, Strickland vowed to double enrollment in the
PSEO program, and the report notes that the Ohio General Assembly has responded
by including nearly $5.7 million for the program in its most recent budget.
Harris says this is the right time to point out how the program can be

“Now that Gov.
Strickland is allocating more resources to this program, it is a real
opportunity for us to be more proactive, to say, ‘Why aren’t rural districts or
urban districts that are predominately minority accessing this policy? Why
aren’t these high schools accessing this policy, why aren’t they making it
available to their students?’” Harris says.

“Ohio is in
trouble. We have an aging work force, we still haven’t recovered from losing
our manufacturing base and one of our best opportunities for moving out of the
rust belt into the new economy is increasing college access for our youth, but
it can’t just be a narrow segment of our youth, it has to be all Ohioans if
we’re going to have a chance,” he continues.

For a copy of
the full report, visit KnowledgeWorks’ Web site at

– David Pluviose

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