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Students taking advantage of Youth Options program at high school

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Since the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction created the original Youth Options program in 1991, students across the state have been able to take college classes for courses their schools didn’t or couldn’t offer.

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“There is a variety of classes that students can and are taking based on their interests,” New Richmond High School counselor Shannon Bartlett said. “I see a lot of advanced chemistry courses, computer programming, or health-related courses. We also see students interested in taking advanced mechanics, engines, tech courses.”

At New Richmond High School alone, there have been 15 students who have taken advantage of the program, which was called the postsecondary enrollment options program in 1991 under Wisconsin Act 39. The program took on the name Youth Options in 1997 when Wisconsin Act 27 changed the name and differentiated enrollment requirements, as well as payment procedures.

“This semester, we have had three students apply to take courses in the spring semester and two of those were approved by the school board,” Bartlett said. “We’ll likely receive another set of applications this spring for the students looking to take classes in the fall.”

In the Youth Options program, one college credit equals one-fourth of a credit at the high school level. Most college courses range from one to five credits, so a student can receive anywhere from one-fourth to one-and-a-fourth credits for taking a college class.

To apply for a college course, a student has to complete a Youth Options Program Plan and Report form PI-8700-A and submit it to his or her current district school board following all instructions on the form. To be eligible for the program, the student must have completed 10th grade, be in good academic standing and have an acceptable disciplinary record. To apply for a fall semester class, a student must apply no later than March 1, or Oct. 1 for a spring semester class.

“I know that the school board can and has denied kids the chance to take these courses since the school already had courses that were similar and could teach the same thing,” Bartlett said. “The high school does have several Advanced Placement Courses where students can earn college credit. Currently we’re offering 10 AP courses. So often times math courses are denied as we go up through AP calculus here, and it would be rare for a student to go beyond this, although always possible.”

For the most part, students take their Youth Options courses at either WITC or UW-River Falls, while online classes are also an option.

According to Bartlett, the number of students taking Youth Options classes has been relatively stable over the years. However, with the advent of more AP courses for the students to take for college credit at the high school, the number of classes students are requesting to take through Youth Options might take a hit.

“So some courses that used to be requested, such as calculus, are now offered as AP options at the high school; therefore, students would not request that for Youth Options,” Bartlett said. “This semester we only had three applicants, but we may see more next semester.”

The cost of a class taken through Youth Options is covered by the school district through a fund set aside for such classes. According to Bartlett, a class at WITC is currently $134 per credit, while a class at UW-RF costs $267.85 per credit.

For the most part, the students taking classes through Youth Options do well in those classes, Bartlett said. But that is nothing less than what Bartlett would expect from those students.

“Generally, the students who take these classes are those motivated, goal-oriented and dedicated students. Therefore, they usually do quite well and enjoy the college course experience.” Bartlett said. “The one caveat to the program, but at the same time an incentive to do well, is that if a student does not complete the course, or does not pass the course, they have to pay for the course and related fees. But as I said, usually we get quality students to participate, so this is often not an issue and they do very well.”

For more information on Youth Options, students or parents can contact Bartlett through the school or by email at shannonb@newrichmond.k12.wi.us.

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Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Obeserver for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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