Youth Options gives students college opportunity

September 9, 2013

From  “Youth Options gives students college opportunity” — Public high school juniors and seniors can take courses at approved post-secondary schools through the Youth Options program, simultaneously earning high school and post-secondary credits. Once the student’s request is approved by both the public school district, and the post-secondary school, the district will pay for the cost of tuition, books, materials and for a portion of transportation costs. All students are responsible for providing their own transportation, and all grades are included in the high school transcript. Students who fail the course or drop out must reimburse the school district.

Youth Options was created in 1991 by the Wisconsin state Legislature and is administered by the Department of Public Instruction and public school districts. Last spring, my daughter, Catie, a student in the Appleton Area School District, applied for this program. I want to share what we learned with you.

Application deadlines are very important to remember. Oct. 1 is the deadline for the spring semester. For the fall 2014 semester, the deadline is March 1. Students must file an application with their public school district. The application form is available from guidance counselors or online from DPI at

Another important thing to remember is the word “comparable.” If a post-secondary course is deemed 80 percent comparable to a high school course, the school district won’t approve the application. Students may apply independently to the post-secondary school, but must pay for their own costs. Students who earn a passing grade can apply to the school district for high school credit.

Students who want to take a course through the Youth Options program must prove the post-secondary course is not 80 percent comparable to an existing school district course. Catie applied to take a British Writers course at Lawrence University. AASD offers a high school British Literature class. We obtained copies of the curriculum for that course and the syllabus for the Lawrence course. We then asked her Advanced Placement English teacher for his opinion. He said no comparable AASD courses existed.

We asked the British Writers professor at Lawrence to compare the high school course curriculum with her course syllabus. She reviewed the documents with her department chairperson and their Youth Options administrator. They concluded that their course was not comparable to the AASD course. The school district approved Catie’s Youth Options application.

After a school district approves a Youth Options application, students must apply to the post-secondary school where the desired course is taught. Lawrence University provisionally approved Catie’s application.

Generally, private schools have more limitations regarding Youth Options than public post-secondary schools. Make sure you know what the limitations are before you apply.

Before students are allowed to take the British Writers class at Lawrence, they must first earn a score of 4 or higher on the AP English exam. Also, students will not be admitted if the class is full, a fact that won’t be known until the first day of class.

Dale Hanson, AASD’s director of career and technical education & instructional technology, helped us develop a backup plan. Catie met with the Lawrence professor and so far, it’s likely she’ll be allowed in the class.

According to Hanson, AASD students typically take courses at three area colleges — Fox Valley Technical College, Lawrence University and the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley. Annually, about 100 AASD students apply to take post-secondary courses through the Youth Options program and about 70 percent are approved by the district.

Hanson said Youth Options gives students the opportunity to support their academic and career plans when high school is no longer able to do so. This includes students who are not college-bound, but who seek technical or other training that the high school doesn’t provide. He recommends students and parents start learning about the Youth Options program as early as possible — no later than the semester prior before filing an application.

Start with your high school guidance counselor, who can provide you with advice, information and application forms. There is a wealth of information available online, such as through the DPI, Fox Valley Technical College or AASD.

Remember, Youth Options is available to all public high school juniors and seniors, even if you aren’t headed for college or are unsure. If your plan is a career in the technical trades, this program is available to you. Talk to your guidance counselor and high school teachers. Contact the post-secondary school of your choice for more information. Local colleges all have staff members working with Youth Options.



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