Save Time, Money in College With Senior Year Plus Programs

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How can students avoid leaving college with unaffordable levels of student loan debt? With the rising cost of tuition at Iowa’s colleges and universities outpacing median household income in Iowa, it is not surprising that families are seeking ways avoid high debt levels. Earning college credit while in high school is one way to reduce the length of time it takes to graduate from college, thus reducing the need to borrow additional student loans. In Iowa, school districts offer a variety of programs designed to provide high school students access to courses that have the potential to generate college credit through the Iowa Department of Education’s Senior Year Plus programs¹.

Senior Year Plus programs include:

Concurrent Enrollment

Community college courses are offered to classes of high school students in the 9th through 12th grades through the concurrent enrollment program. The classes are college classes even though they may be held in a school district classroom. The instructor may be a community college instructor or a high school instructor employed by the school district who meets state and college faculty standards and requirements. Students earn both college credit and high school credit which applies to high school graduation requirements.

Advanced Placement (AP®)

AP® courses are college-level courses available to high school students, most often in their junior or senior years. Students choose among 34 classes provided through The College Board. Many colleges grant credit, advanced placement or both to students with high AP® exam scores. Students interested in taking AP® classes should talk to an AP® teacher or coordinator at their school to talk about courses they want to take.

Students who attend Iowa schools that do not have the capability to offer AP® classes on-site can still take advantage of AP® courses offered through the Iowa Online AP Academy. Students can enroll in the online courses through their local school district. Students enrolling in Iowa Online AP Academy classes are asked to designate an on-site student coach, through which their school can provide on-site support and encouragement to each student or group of students. Student grades are awarded by the student’s home school, based on the recommendation of the Iowa Online AP Academy instructor.

Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)

PSEO allow students in the 11th and 12th grades (as well as 9th and 10th grade students identified as talented and gifted) to enroll in college courses. Students who successfully complete a course earn college credit, and also high school credits for those courses that meet district graduation requirements. School districts pay for the cost of the course or $250, whichever is lower. Parents or guardians are responsible for transportation to and from the postsecondary institution. Iowa Regent Institutions (Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Iowa), Iowa community colleges, and certain accredited private colleges and universities are eligible institutions in Iowa’s PSEO program. Students interested in the PSEO program should check the process established at their school district.

Career Academies

Career academy programs in Iowa integrate academics and technical instruction which utilizes work-based learning where appropriate. The goal is to prepare students for entry and advancement in a high-skill career field. These programs combine a minimum of two years of secondary education with an associate degree in a career preparatory program. Students in career academy programs graduate from high school with the class in which they were enrolled.

In-state students who take longer to graduate from one of Iowa’s public universities typically owe, on average, over $16,500 for each additional year in tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies. Students attending private colleges or universities who take longer than four years to graduate might incur over $32,000 for each additional year it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree². The Senior Year Plus programs described above provide students with the opportunity to earn college credit while in high school which helps them to stand out in the college admission process and ultimately reduces their college costs.

Students can learn more about the programs available at their school through their high school counselor or designated AP® coordinator.

¹Iowa Department of Education, “Senior Year Plus Guide for Educators and Educational Administrators,” 2009.

²Iowa College Student Aid Commission, “Typical Full-Time Undergraduate Student Expenses at College and Universities in Iowa,” 2011-2012.


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