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As of the upcoming registration period, college credit earned through examinations taken prior to a student’s matriculation at the University of Michigan — most notably Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams — will no longer be considered when assigning students to one of 27 hierarchical registration “blocks,”  an email from the University of Michigan Registrar office announced last week. These blocks determine registration priority, allowing those with more credits to register for classes first.

Credit awarded during orientation for U-M placement tests will also no longer affect registration appointment order. Dual-enrollment and other credits transferred from other higher education institutions will continue to count.

According to the email announcement, the change is a part of the University’s “student equity and our institutional values” and was made to better support students from high schools with few or no opportunities to take advanced level courses and receive college credit. Students from these schools frequently represent racial or socioeconomic minority demographics at the University and often already feel at an academic disadvantage compared to those with prior access to college-level courses. 

Additionally, students must take AP and IB tests to earn college credit, and these exams are expensive, locking out lower-income students. Both tests cost about $100 per test, and each test only grants credit for one course. 

Years of concern among students about how AP and IB credits may exacerbate a narrative of “credit classism” within the University — particularly regarding registration priority — have led some students to call for reforms to the policy during past registration periods.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Daily that the University has considered amending the registration priority policy for several years now. The administration officially instituted the change when U-M faculty indicated that they would be able to implement it in time for the Spring, Summer and Fall 2021 registration. 

“The university has carefully studied changing the process for assigning appointments over a period of several years,” Fitzgerald wrote. “After consultation with a number of constituent groups, the university chose to address the inequity as soon as possible so that students who came in at a disadvantage would not continue to experience it throughout their college career.”

On Nov. 11, 2020, LSA Student Government unanimously passed a resolution asking the University to stop accounting for AP and IB credit when determining registration appointment time slots. The resolution was then sent to LSA faculty and administration as well as the Office of the Registrar.

“Utilizing a registration policy in which AP and IB credits are counted leads to a disparity between students with AP or IB credits and those without,” the resolution stated. “This disparity endures throughout the individual’s college experience.”

Public Policy junior Emma Wong said she is optimistic the change will help mitigate her struggle with securing a seat in competitive classes, a struggle she has come to permanently associate with her registration process. Wong’s high school offered a very limited selection of AP courses and though she was able to take AP Calculus and self-study for AP French, she said her registration date has always been noticeably later than her peers in the same year.

“This has been a constant, on-going struggle for me since freshman year,” Wong said. “My registration date has always been at least a few days after my earliest friends, but even a day or two after my friends who had fewer APs. So it definitely puts people at a disadvantage if you don’t have credit.”

However, some students with substantial AP or IB credit worry the policy will affect their initially planned college timeline. . Students coming into the University with substantial amounts of AP or IB credit often consider pursuing early graduation to save thousands in tuition costs and begin post-college experiences sooner.

Engineering freshman Ashwin Saxena, who noted he’s a student with a junior standing on account of his AP and IB credits, said his brother was able to graduate from the College of Engineering in three years and his family presumed Saxena could do the same. Saxena is pursuing a degree in computer science, a program notorious for extremely long waitlists in upper-level classes. 

Saxena said he is academically prepared to take junior-level CSE classes, but without his nearly 50 AP and IB credits counting towards registration priority, it will be close to impossible for him to register for the appropriate level courses.

“Before joining the University I knew about the waitlist problems within the CS department,” Saxena said. “But I thought that since I had APs, even if I had a problem (getting into certain CSE classes) … I would still be able to graduate in three years. But they just announced the policy out of the blue.” 

Saxena said while he is glad the University is prioritizing DEI initiatives, he is worried about how the change will affect his individual financial situation.

“My brother … set the expectation that I would also graduate in three years, so that’s how much money my parents allocated for me,” Saxena said. “So this has huge financial repercussions if I’m unable to graduate (in that time).”

Similarly, LSA freshman Sophie Clark received enough AP credits prior to matriculation that she will be attending the School of Public Policy next fall with junior class standing. Clark had also constructed her college budget based on the assumption her undergraduate experience could fit into a three-year plan. 

Clark said she is especially frustrated her AP credits will still cause the University to consider her an upperclassman with respect to tuition rates. However, credit-wise, she now will have the same standing as an underclassman for registration priority purposes.

“I have to pay upper-rate tuition but I’m registering as a sophomore,” Clark said. “So either charge us the lower-rate tuition and give us lower registration standing or keep upper-rate tuition and give us the priority that everybody else who’s paying our tuition gets, because that’s not fair.”

Registration appointment assignments will be available in Wolverine Access on Wednesday, March 24. Wong, Saxena and Clark all said they are anxiously waiting until then to definitively see how the new policy will affect their registration time and the courses they will be able to enroll in for the upcoming Spring/Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 terms. 

Though the campus-wide effects of the policy remain to be seen, Wong said she imagines the change will generally promote greater inclusivity for students from all walks of life at the University.

“I think in the long run it’ll just make it more equitable and people will be able to get into classes based on their seniority within the school itself rather than what they came in with,” Wong said. “That might just make it a little bit more fair and overall people might be happier.”

Daily Staff Reporter Roni Kane can be reached at ronikane@umich.edu.

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