Students have options when it comes to saving time and money for college by earning course credits in high school.
One such option is the nonprofit College Board’s Advanced Placement program where students who score high enough in subject-area tests become eligible for college credit. Another, known as dual credit or dual enrollment, entails school districts partnering with higher education institutions to allow high school students to earn college credit.
When it comes to the AP program, educators and families alike have, for years, debated how many AP courses students should take to both get into college and succeed academically there. The debate, experts say, is happening, in part, because colleges and universities have been vague on the subject.
This summer the College Board took a stab at the latter part of the question through research that found students performing well on more than five AP course exams weren’t going to increase their chances of academic success in college by taking additional courses. Once they hit that threshold, students were already more likely to both get good first-year grades and graduate from college.
Education Week readers, in Facebook comments, added another question into the mix: Should students forgo AP in favor of dual enrollment programs, especially when seeking money-saving pathways to college?
Some stand by AP
Comments in favor of students taking AP courses highlighted the savings from high test scores as well as the way AP scores play out in the college admission process. Specifically, some comments highlighted how AP courses can, in some schools, offer a weighted GPA that impacts class ranking, which, in turn, can matter when applying to highly selective institutions.
“AP classes saved me time and money in college. As a low income kid, I received waivers to take the AP tests for free, and got 4s and 5s. All of those translated into college credits and I would have graduated early if I didn’t change majors.”
“Many private colleges do not accept dual enrollment classes as there is no standardized curriculum. However, most take AP credits because they know the rigor of the classes. I know many kids [are] disappointed that the school they were in love with did not award credits for dual. A college admissions counselor just told our juniors that those with AP get a “bump” for scholarships, but those with dual do not. Every state is different but I fully support AP over dual any day! (High School administrator with 16 years experience)”
“My daughter is a senior with a 4.0 and some APs. Her weighted GPA with the APs is 4.75. She is [89th percentile] in her class. She would have been top ten had she taken more APs. I wish we would have known. Top ten matters.”
“There are lots of comments about dual enrollment. Not all schools and majors will accept credits, so do some research before your child enrolls in these classes. Depending on the individual situation, AP classes might be the way to go. Also, dual enrollment courses may not count toward GPA and class rank (learn the school’s policy). These stats are important to some colleges.”
Some stand by dual enrollment
Comments in favor of students in dual enrollment programs spoke of the savings as well as the more direct access students get to higher education material and staff.
“Dual credit is the way to go. My son graduated high school with 59 hours of college credit. The courses were free and so were the books. Financial win.”
“Dual enrollment is the way to go, folks. If you want them to do higher level stuff they might as well knock time off their college degree while they do it. Almost every community college has matriculation agreements with major universities.”
“I find it’s way more beneficial to take college [courses] from a local community college than to pay for an AP course.”
Others say it depends on the student
Still, some comments focused more on how broader context including what is best for students and what can actually prepare students for college coursework.