College is a dream for many high school students and their parents. However, in the most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a budget for a moderately priced, in-state, public college can average $25,290 per year. A mid-level private college can average $50,900 per year. This dream can become a very expensive gift if your child is not ready for the challenge of college.  

So it’s not surprising that the high cost of college can encourage parents and high school students to look for other options to gain college credits while still attending high school.  

Concurrent enrollment options are one way to help students gain the academic skills needed for college and forego some of the high cost of college. In the state of Minnesota, there are several programs that allow students to gain college credits while in high school. The information for the College in the High School program will be covered in the article. Other programs for students to earn college credits while in high school such as Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate and Postsecondary Enrollment Options will not be covered. 

Concurrent Enrollment or College in the High School (CIHS) 

CIHS courses are college courses offered at the high school, usually taught by a trained high school teacher. These courses are offered in partnership with a college or university. Students who successfully complete these courses generate both high school and transcript college credit from the partnering postsecondary institution. 

CIHS courses are at no cost to the student to participate in these, however, students will need to meet the following criteria: 

  • in 11th or 12th grade students, however, eligible 9th and 10th-grade students can take some courses when agreed upon by both the school and postsecondary institution offering the credits. 
  • Minnesota residents 
  • Accuplacer test score: GPA of 3.0+ or an ACT score of 24+.  

The criteria may vary from the postsecondary institution that is offering the credits since that institution sets the entrance criteria. 

Download the Ready for College Resource Guide

Minnesota’s concurrent enrollment programs offer students’ access to rigorous college courses right in their high school buildings. Research shows that high school students who participate in an accelerated learning option, such as concurrent enrollment, benefit greatly from the exposure to high expectations and academic challenge that is required to do well in college courses. In addition, students gain college-level skills such as how to think critically, write academically, and read analytically, all of which can prepare students for greater success in college. 

When high school students complete some college credit requirements early that can allow for greater flexibility when he or she enters the university setting full-time. Students are able to pursue second majors or internships, participate in study abroad opportunities, or take a semester off. The momentum gained by earning college credits in high school can help students stay persistent enough to complete college. 

As a parent of high-school-age children, our older children have taken College in the High School courses. CIHS courses have been good experiences for them because it has given them a taste of the academic rigor needed for college courses, plus there’s the structure of a high school classroom and teachers are available for help. Students with a particular subject area interest would be encouraged to seek out concurrent enrollment courses that are available in their high school.  

The high cost of college and the length of time it takes to move through college to degree completion are factors for parents to consider. You will want your child to be prepared  academically and to have the maturity to move on to the next step whether that be graduate studies or a job in the workplace. Concurrent enrollment programs can help both parent and students have the taste of the college experience without all of the costs associated with college. 


Download the Ready for College? resource guide which is full of links and information on college readiness and earning college credits while in high school. Download it now!

Kathy Magnusson M.Ed.

Kathy Magnusson, M. Ed, support parents in creating educational options for their teen. She has been in the field of education for over 20 years and is passionate in engaging young adults in unleashing their unique brilliance. As an educator and coach, Kathy has supported parents in finding ways to help their teen feel more capable and confident. When she’s not chasing after her own four teens on a farm near Roseau, MN, you can find her serenely kayaking or relaxing with a good book at the family lake cabin in Ontario, Canada.

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