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There is a growing trend for high school students to take advantage of accelerated learning opportunities in an effort to prepare for the challenges of college and to position oneself as a prime candidate for college admissions.  Two of the most common accelerated learning programs, both available at Greenbrier Christian Academy, are Advanced Placement courses or Dual Enrollment Courses.  In many instances, these would seem to be oppositional programs, and are believed by some to split the population of qualified candidates.  However, there are benefits and detriments to each that must be carefully examined when making the decision of what advanced classes to take.

Definitions

The Advanced Placement (AP) program is a nationally recognized program of college level instruction managed by the College Board (that organization that oversees the administration of the SAT- Scholastic Achievement Test).  Each of the courses is developed by the College Board to cover “the breadth of information, skills, and assignments typically found in a corresponding college course” and in accordance with a nationally recognized standard (College Board, 2009).  AP courses are taught by highly qualified high school teachers and are in keeping with detailed course descriptions and expectations.  Each school must submit the details of its course content, curricular goals, methodology, and resources for approval by the College Board.  Those institutions that have complied with and successfully met the criteria of the College Board are recognized annually in the College Board AP Audit Ledger available to colleges and universities.  This “seal of approval” indicates that the course offered to your student is of appropriate rigor and structure to comply with the national expectations as understood by all of the secondary and post secondary members of the College Board.  To demonstrate mastery of the course content, students take a cumulative examination in May of the year for the subject studied.  If they successfully demonstrate competency with a score of 3, 4, or 5 (on a scale of 1-5), they may be awarded college credit by colleges or universities of interest.


Dual Enrollment (sometimes called “Dual Credit”) programs are developed by schools and school districts in conjunction with various colleges to provide college courses to high school students through various delivery methods (on campus, on line, or at the university itself).  These classes vary in content and rigor based upon the expectations set by the college or university partner.  Upon completion of the class, students receive a pre-designated number of college credit hours. This allows the advanced or motivated student to begin to accrue college credits prior to completing high school, and to be exposed to the expectations of college level work with the guarantee of benefit upon completion.

Which is Best?

Examination of the benefits of each of these types of programs will most often result in a “split decision”, leaving the student and family in a quandary as to how to proceed.  The intention is most often to position the student most advantageously for college admissions and to expose students to expanded opportunities outside of the typical high school curriculum.  Careful consideration must be given to the circumstances of each student and his or her plans before a decision is made.  The “solution” may be as unique as your student.

Advanced Placement:  A recognized entity

AP exams are nationally normed, and therefore consistently meaningful.  “A score of 5 on that test communicates that not only are you a good student who can handle college level work, but that you have demonstrated a high degree of mastery of the subject matter” (Montgomery, 2008).  This allows college admissions officers to compare “apples to apples” to show the ability of the student to manage rigor and cumulative mastery.

A number of studies have indicated that students who take AP courses are better prepared and have stronger college grades than those who have taken other types of advanced courses.  The focus of this finding has been not on the exam grade per se, but on the participation in and successful completion of this type of challenging course (Graves, 2011).  Just the entry of an AP course on the student cumulative transcript connotes rigor, diligence, and an academic mindset. 

National trends indicate that many high school graduates do not successfully make it through their first year of college. However, students who successfully complete rigorous AP courses not only finish college, but also do it in a shorter length of time than the national average of six years and 7 months for an undergraduate degree.  One extensive research study completed in Texas in 2008 reports that

 “…Students whose average scores on an AP exam is 2 or better have a much stronger likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree in 4 years than students who took dual enrollment courses, students who earned an average score of 1 on an AP exam, or students who took neither AP nor dual enrollment courses in high school”.  (College Board, 2008)

Financially, many families find AP courses more cost effective than dual enrollment courses since the cost is usually an AP fee to cover administrative costs, plus textbooks and the exam fee.  Dual enrollment classes require additional tuition fees (at rates set by the university based upon credit hours), and the cost of textbooks.  The difference may be as much as $600-700 per class above the cost of an AP course.

The “down-side” to the AP course is that to gain the college credit, the student must prepare for and take the annual exam, and obtain a minimum score.  This score is then received by the intended college or university and a determination is made regarding the issuance of credit or waiving of required courses. Some would argue that the process of preparing for the exam itself is really a benefit; as every college graduate knows, often a grade in an entire class is dependent upon the student doing that very thing.

The Pitfalls of Dual Enrollment:

Dual Enrollment courses allow the student to be “exposed to the expectations of college” while still functioning within the supporting structure of the high school classroom.  In addition, there is the added guarantee of assured credit for completing the class.  While this may be beneficial, it is often difficult for college admission officers to determine exactly what level of mastery that completion of the course represents as they survey a prospective freshman candidate.  Overall, most students indicate that the rigor of a dual enrollment course is much less than that of an AP class, and college admission officers often agree.  As a result, many colleges and universities will not accept dual enrollment credits. 

A casual survey of many of the major colleges and universities in Virginia and elsewhere indicate the differing positions on this matter.  Within the state, given the cooperative agreements between the community college system and four-year universities, many Virginia schools will accept dual enrollment classes from the community college system.  Transfer credits from other institutions are subject to review prior to acceptance.  Many private or more prestigious public schools do not accept dual enrollment credits at all.  This is determined exclusively by the recipient university and depends upon the origin of the credits and the policy of the individual institution (Lippencott, 2012).

 

University

Accepts AP

Accepts Dual Enrollment

In Virginia:

   

Christopher Newport University

X

Subject   to Review

College of William and Mary

X

 

George Mason University

X

Subject   to Review

James Madison University

X

Subject   to Review

Liberty University

X

X

Old Dominion University

X

Subject   to Review

University of Mary Washington

X

Subject   to Review

University of Richmond

X

 

University of Virginia

X

 

Virginia Commonwealth University

X

X

Virginia Tech

X

Subject   to Review

Virginia Military Institute

X

Subject   to Review

     

Elsewhere:

   

American University

X

 

Arizona State University

X

X

Auburn University

X

Subject   to review

Cedarville University

X

CU   credits

Cornell University

X

 

Dartmouth University

X

 

East Carolina University

X

Subject   to review

Georgetown University

X

 

Harvard University

X

 

North Carolina State University

X

Subject   to Review

Ohio State University

X

 

Purdue University

X

X

Samford University

X

 

Stanford University

X

 

University of Texas

X

X

Villanova University

X

 

Yale University

X

 

 *This table is for illustration only.  Students and parents are cautioned to re-confirm the policies and practices of any university with regard to acceptance of transfer credits prior to taking a dual credit class.

Recent communications with various college admissions offices by a GCA parent indicated that many schools of interest for her student did not accept dual enrollment credits.  Excerpts from those communications include:

“Credits will be considered only if [the courses] are not included in [the student’s] high school record”- Duke University.

“Entering first year students are not granted credit for college courses taken before graduation from secondary school”- Columbia University.  (Note that Columbia does accept up to six hours of credit for classes taken after high school graduation).

“Our most competitive applicants generally take the highest level of coursework available at their school, including AP or IB.  We encourage student to exhaust the most rigorous courses offered at their school before exploring outside options”-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Courses are accepted for transfer credit if they meet the following criteria… [including that they].did not count toward secondary school graduation requirements” – Stanford University.

“In advance of enrollment, we are unable to inform you if college credit gained through college courses or dual enrollment programs taken during high school will be accepted as official college transfer credit.  For enrolling freshmen, transfer credit is determined by the Academic Advising offices after official transcripts are received….If courses are taken at a high school with only high school students and not at the college/university, then credits will not be transferrable”-  Johns Hopkins University.

While the cost of dual enrollment courses often far exceeds that of AP classes, it is important to remember that these classes are still more economical than regular undergraduate tuition rates, and will save the student and the family money if accepted by the student’s college of interest.

Despite this major consideration, dual enrollment can be valuable to the motivated high school student.  With this in mind, it is critical that the student “do their homework” before undertaking dual enrollment classes.  Students and families should seek to insure that the college or university issuing dual enrollment credits is accredited. This increases the chances of the credits being accepted by the students intended university.  Students should be prepared to demonstrate the rigor of the dual enrollment class by providing a syllabus or a portfolio of work from the class to his or her intended college.  Most importantly, students and parents should investigate the policy on dual enrollment transfer credit ahead of time with the institution of choice for further study. 

Decisions, decisions…

After carefully weighing the options, a student at Greenbrier Christian Academy is able to avail himself of either of these advanced learning opportunities.  GCA has a strong slate of long-standing AP courses (seven regularly scheduled courses) that have produced numerous AP Scholars and AP Scholars with Distinction over the years.  Since 2008, GCA students have earned college credits via dual enrollment/dual credit programs with Tidewater Community College, Regent University, and Cedarville University.  Contact the Student Services Office for additional information on the best solution for you.  Together we can devise a plan to prepare you for what the Lord has planned for your future.

 

References

Allen, D. (2010). Dual enrollment: A comprehensive literature review & bibliography. The City University of New York. Retrieved August 3, 2012 from http://www.cuny.edu/academics/k-to-12/databook/library/DE_LitReview_August2010.pdf

Brown, A. (2011, July). Should I take AP or dual enrollment courses? Retrieved August 1, 2012 from http://www.theadmissioncentre.com/2011/should-i-take-ap-or-dual-enrollment-courses/#ixzz22UeqbDqM

Cohen, K. (2009, May 22). Dual enrollment may not benefit every student. Today.com. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/30867913/ns/today-parenting_and_family/t/dual-enrollment-may-not-benefit-every-student/

College Board (2009). AP and dual enrollment: Options for schools and students. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://www.projectopeningdoors.org/documents/APDual.pdf

Graves, D. (2011, February). Dual enrollment and challenging coursework. Retrieved August 3, 2012 from the University of Georgia Admissions blog at http://ugaadmissions.blogspot.com/2011/02/dual-enrollment-and-challenging.html

Lamberty, B. (2011). 2011-2012 FAQ sheet for advanced placement and dual enrollment. Millard West High School, Omaha, NE. http://mps.mwhs.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/750502/File/FAQ%20Sheet%20for%20AP%20&%20Dual%20Enrollment%202011-2012.pdf?sessionid=166b521337c0e3853e2b141fc0814748

Lippencott, M. (2012, May 1).  Advanced placement vs. dual enrollment: Creditable differences.  The Thunder Project: Taking Education by Storm. Retrieved August 1, 2012 from http://www.thethunderproject.org/840/

Montgomery, M. (2008, September). AP, IB, and dual enrollment (or pseo): An analysis. Montgomery Educational Consulting. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://greatcollegeadvice.com/ap-ib-and-dual-enrollment-or-pseo-an-analysis/

Princeton Review (2011, February 9) An intro to getting college credit in high school. Retrieved August 2, 2012 from http://in.princetonreview.com/in/2011/02/an-intro-to-getting-college-credit-in-high-school.html

Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (2006, June). Accelerated learning options: Moving the needle on access and success. Retrieved August 3, 2012 from http://www.wiche.edu/pub/12758

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