Wisconsin program gives more choices

LaCROSSE, WISCONSIN (AP) – Public school students in Wisconsin will have more options for taking college courses or classes offered by other school districts because of a new program available this year.

La Crosse colleges have already received applications from high school students interested in taking advantage of the state’s new Course Options program. The program adds to the array of college-level options available to K-12 students by expanding a state program initially intended for students interested in taking a class at another school.

Without paying a dime, students in any grade-level can take up to two college classes through Course Options, or use the same program to take classes at another public school, tribal colleges or even participating private schools, as long as the institution is a participating nonprofit. Course Options takes effect this year.

“It’s been sort of a voyage of discovery for all of our local school districts,” said Rob Tyvoll, the La Crosse School District’s supervisor of academic programs and staff development.

Western Technical College has already admitted one Course Options student for its summer semester, and has received four more applications from students for fall semester. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has received applications from nearly five students interested in using the state’s newest flexibility for K-12 learners, said Corey Sjoquist, the university’s director of admissions.

“I think that there will be some students that can benefit from this because they have exhausted all of the math courses available to them at their high school,” Sjoquist said. “Or all of the language courses available.”

College classes taken through Course Options are free – a point underlined by Wis. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who released an opinion Thursday saying the new program applied to so-called “concurrent” UW classes that were taught at local high schools but had previously charged students tuition.

“We said they should be free to parents and kids, and the attorney general agreed to that,” said John Johnson, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction.

If a student attends another district, the resident district is required to pay an amount based on Wisconsin’s per-pupil open-enrollment rate. If a student takes a college class, the cost is shared by the resident district and the college.