Continuing to accept AP credits will help keep the College affordable

In an educational landscape growing more unaffordable with each passing semester, the opportunity to obtain relatively inexpensive Advanced Placement credits is becoming increasingly important. The New York Times recently reported that Dartmouth College “has announced that it will no longer give college credits for good AP scores, starting with the class of 2018.” If other elite universities follow suit, the College of William and Mary will have an opportunity to gain a tremendous competitive advantage by continuing to provide credit for good AP scores.

Dartmouth cited concern that “Advanced Placement courses are not as rigorous as college courses” as the reason for discontinuing its policy of acknowledging AP credits. That Dartmouth’s research found that their courses are more rigorous than AP courses should come as a surprise to nobody. In fact, if Dartmouth, an Ivy League school, had found their courses were not more rigorous than the “college-level” courses taught in high schools across the country, it would have been inherently problematic.

Regardless, Dartmouth should not be comparing AP courses to its courses. Rather, they should be comparing AP courses to community college and online courses. As Mark Cuban wrote in The Huffington Post Saturday, “For the smart student who cares about getting their money’s worth from college, the days of one school for four years are over.” As college becomes more unaffordable and massive open online course platforms strengthen, getting basic, introductory classes out of the way at community schools or online is becoming the prudent option for students worried about debt.

Moreover, the real value of institutions of higher education lies primarily in small seminars and discussions that provide students with new ways of thinking, along with the material they are learning in the course. AP credits are not replacing these classes. Usually, they only can replace introductory classes, most of which are taught in large lecture halls, where attendance is not necessary for success. From my personal experience, I would even contend that given a good teacher, an AP course has the potential to be more rewarding than a large lecture class. Thus, the classes that AP credits replace are not essential to take at the same prestigious school that will hand you your diploma, nor are they worth the post-graduation debt.

The College prides itself on being an affordable option for some of the nation’s strongest students. Kiplinger rates us as the No. 4 “best value” university in the country. Some of our best students could have gone to Ivy League schools, such as Dartmouth, but decided to go to the College, in part, because it was a better financial option. If the College wants to continue to attract a high caliber of students it should embrace its affordability and the reality that the nature of college is changing.

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