Beginning with the entering class of 2014, Advanced Placement scores will no longer count for college credit at Dartmouth College. While students can still place out of certain courses with high AP scores, the scores will not count as progress toward their degrees. Because strong AP scores in certain subjects might qualify a student to place out of specific courses, they should be awarded college credit as well. Not doing so disregards a key purpose of taking AP tests: earning college credit to lessen the ever-increasing cost of undergraduate education. This sets a troubling precedent for other colleges.
Developed in the 1950s by the College Board, the AP Program offers more than 30 college-level courses that students can take in high school. Students who receive high scores on end-of-semester exams can receive college credit for those courses and possibly be exempt from some introductory college classes. For many high-school students, the purpose of taking an AP course is to gain college credit and enhance their college applications. The program even endorses this view, advertising on its website that taking AP tests is a way to “earn college credit and placement.” Refusing to accept strong AP scores for college credit runs contrary to their original purpose. This practice takes advantage of students who take AP courses to gain entry to competitive colleges but are then denied credits for those courses.
Denying AP credits has resounding financial implications. At the University of Michigan, for example, a student with AP Calculus BC scores of 4/5 or 5/5 can be exempted from introductory math courses and earn four credits toward his or her degree. If the student is part-time, this 4-credit sequence would cost $2,432 if coming from in-state and lower division or $6,639 if from out-of-state and lower division. By doing well on the AP Calculus BC exam, which costs $89, a student can save $2,287 or $6,639, depending on where they live. Alongside these savings, granting AP credits also creates opportunities for students to pursue other courses, intellectual interests or employment — which is increasingly relevant given the rising costs of tuition.
While some schools like Dartmouth provide generous financial aid that aims to meet 100 percent of the students’ need, the vast majority of colleges do not have this capability. While certain schools might deny AP credits and still cover the financial burden of taking credits that one would have otherwise earned, most colleges cannot. Schools that refuse to grant AP credits are setting a dangerous precedent for other institutions to follow. Should this trend be realized in schools that are not as wealthy, our institutions of higher education will become even less accessible.
Colleges that don’t grant AP credit must realize that one key reason students take AP exams is, in fact, to earn college credit. Disregarding this not only denies the usefulness of enriching high-school education with advanced classes, but also places an unfair financial burden on students.