Many universities are tightening their standards for AP credits, which is a disservice to students’ bank accounts and experience.
Throughout the country, participation in Advanced Placement classes is on the rise with new students every year being involved in these more difficult courses. Students are not only taking these classes at a higher level but also succeeding at a greater rate as well. According to College Board, the company in charge of AP testing, 1.1 million students in the graduating class of 2016 took at least one AP test in their high school careers. This is around 25,000 more than the year before. Through AP, students are allowed to receive credit for college classes in 23 states across America.
However, the influx of students taking these classes have made colleges begin to think about their current AP requirements. According to a study done in 2016 by the Progressive Policy Institute, almost 44 percent of top universities do not accept a 3 on AP exams for credit. The University of Tulsa does take 3s on subjects such as Calculus, Chinese and Statistics. Current AP score requirements for beginning classes may cause problem for future students due to the fact that it may be dangerous for students’ educational development if they skip beginning classes. An attempt by some universities to fix this problem is to raise the point requirement on certain essential classes. This attempt could have its flaws in that students who understand the material but are less skilled in the art of taking tests will be left out.
One of the arguments behind the increasing AP score requirements is that it is extremely important that students legitimately understand the material they are passing over. These beginning classes are the foundation of their college experience. If they skip these and do not properly understand the material, they may face problems in later classes, as they don’t have the foundational material to build on in the future.
A major example of this is AP English, which allows students to pass a beginning English college class. Through this class, they will learn important things such as academic paper writing or English composition. This knowledge will help them in their future classes, where they are required to use their particular skills in addition to the subject matter included in the class.
There may be a sharp difference between the work done in a high school and a college English class. This leaves a potential risk for prospective students, as they may be forced into a situation in which they are not prepared for. The Dean of Faculty of the School and Arts and Sciences of Dartmouth, Michael Mastanduno, stated that Dartmouth’s reason for not accepting AP scores is that “the decision to modify the policy was made to require our students to take full advantage of the faculty expertise and unique academic resources that characterize a Dartmouth educational experience.”
While there is no definitive proof regarding this issue, universities could also be raising AP requirements to force students to take more classes and therefore pay more money, in tuition, to the university. In a report done by the Government Accountability Office, GAO, universities are increasingly dependent on school tuition to pay their bills, as state and federal funds have dried up over the past few years. More students continually skip paying for introductory classes may make universities inclined to raise AP score requirements to support their bottom line.
Raising AP scores could also be seen as problematic, as it negatively affects students who are less gifted at taking tests, especially ones as long as AP tests. Two students could have a very similar knowledge of the subject material, but due to a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from test taking ability and economic background to personal wellness, have very different results. Some students who have the knowledge required to skip a step in their college careers are being left out due to the existence of a single test. Issues that are outside their control could force them to do worse than their peers. A student could have been sick or was unable to receive enough sleep due to a variety of issues. However, one could argue that students who did bad on an AP test would also do bad in the classes on testing. While there is no perfect solution to the problem, providing a solid baseline would give students who clearly understand the material the credit they deserve for the material they produced.
A way that could potentially fix the imbalance between AP testing and classroom activity is to require both a baseline AP score as well as a grade. The University of Tulsa has an example of this through the first two musical theory classes. One must achieve a 4 on the AP exam as well as having a B in their high-school class, and vice versa. This allows students to showcase that they are were not only successful on the test but in their classwork too. Unlike AP scores though, class work and grading are not a standardized system across the country, so there could be an imbalance in grades. However, it would still be a potentially beneficial system to fix any worries about foundational knowledge without requiring a 5 on the AP test itself.
AP score requirements at universities should not rise, because it would be detrimental to students who worked to achieve those scores. The fear of students ruining their college careers by jumping into classes they are not prepared for can be remedied by a discussion with their professor before the class begins. While this may not be possible in larger state universities due to the class size, these universities could have an event for new students in which they describe the skills required for advancement. At the University of Tulsa, this event could be easily accomplished due to lower class sizes. Most of the largest classes never reach more than 30 people, allowing a preemptive meeting for AP Freshmen and others a valid possibility. Students can then decide themselves whether they feel ready to skip the foundational step or take the class. This promotes a system where the weight of this decision is placed on the student to make for themselves rather than the university taking complete control and determining what is best for the student. The University of Tulsa currently allows students to acquire 36 credit hours throughout all forms of high school advancement, whether that be AP testing, International Baccalaureate or language proficiencies. In addition, transfer students wanting to receive credits for their AP scores must have passed TU’s AP requirements rather than one’s previous school requirements.