Preparing for Education After High School

Students Struggle With the Benefits of Advanced Classes

Tate Hutter, Reporter

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As the college landscape continues to change, so do the opportunities presented to students. With university enrollment becoming more and more competitive, students feel that they need to find ways to strengthen their résumés. Many of them do so by taking higher-level dual credit classes or AP classes. Yet, there is another opportunity that these classes present. These classes allow students to finish a number of college classes before they even step on campus.

                             Generally, universities require freshman and sophomores to take a number of general education classes that include a  variety of math, science, history, and English classes. It is very similar to high school in that these classes are required to graduate.

           With the creation of dual credit and AP classes, students are able to bypass these required classes. Dual credit and AP classes allow a student to not only gain high school credit but also college credit for their required classes. This essentially allows students to gain a head start in their college career.

  “I have seen an increase in the number of students who actually enroll in dual credit. When I started teaching these classes about 10 years ago, many students took the classes but did not dual enroll.  Now most students dual enroll,” Mrs. Self said.

   While students load their schedules with these classes, there is a fundamental difference between the two.

   Local universities such as Missouri State, Drury and OTC generally offer dual credit classes, but the class is still taken at the high school. Instead of paying the full price of the class, students usually only pay around half of what it would cost in college.

    “The first, and perhaps the most important reason to some to take dual credit classes, is the cost.  A student can take a college credit class for half the cost,” English teacher Nancy Bright-Kaufman said.

   If a class is worth three hours of dual credit and the student manages to pass the class, then that means they will have three credit hours completed for that subject once they reach college.

   However, AP classes work slightly differently. A student that takes an AP class does not receive college credit for simply passing the class. Upon completion of the class, the student must take the AP exam, which is graded on a scale of 1-5. At most universities, students must score a four or higher in order to receive the college credit for the class.

   While this may present dual credit as the more favorable option, there is another factor that must be considered.

   For example, if a student receives dual  through Missouri State University, then that dual credit will most likely only be accepted at Missouri public and private universities. According to their respective university websites, Missouri State, Mizzou, Drury, St. Louis University and UMKC all accept dual credit. However, it is very unlikely that out of state schools, such as schools on the East and West coast, will accept the dual credit.

     In contrast, if a student receives a passing grade on the AP exam, then the credit will be accepted at almost any college in the country.

   So as students load their schedules with these two types of classes, they must consider what they wish to do after high school. If a student wishes to stay at an in state university, they may find it more beneficial to take dual credit courses. However, if a student is looking at going to an out of state school, they make take more interest in AP classes.

   Yet, many students are wondering whether or not the pros of these classes outweigh the cons.

   There are a number of disadvantages to both.

   If a student uses the dual credit option, then it greatly limits the schools in which they may wish to apply to. Many find it a waste of time and money to take these courses if they intend to go out of state.

    AP classes also have their disadvantages. While AP credit is accepted at most universities, the student must still make at least a four on the AP exam. If they do not pass this exam, they may find that it was useless to take the advanced class.

    However, there is a third level to this discussion. Should advanced classes be taken at all? There are a number of arguments that would say yes and a number of arguments that would say no.

   There are numerous points that can be made that would support those in favor of advanced high school classes.

   Many of those people in favor of these classes believe that there is a correlation between advanced high school classes and success in college.

     “The number one benefit is college readiness, hands down.  If you take more challenging classes in high school, you are more prepared to move on to the next level,” Self explained.

    Furthermore, there is evidence to back this argument. A study done at the University of Iowa found that students who took AP or dual credit classes, were 10% more likely to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

    However, there are a number of disputes that would suggest that advanced classes are not entirely beneficial to the educational well being of students.

    Data from the College Board shows that in 2014, students took 3.9 million AP tests. This

is five times as many as compared to just two decades earlier. Yet, despite these rising numbers, the rate of AP test success is not climbing at the same speed. This may suggest that students are taking more advanced classes than what they can handle or students who are not prepared for advanced classes are enrolling in them.

“Some students are so incredibly overwhelmed with work it’s amazing how they get through their day.  Either they, or their parents, or both, put such extraordinary pressure on them; sometimes, quite honestly, it’s too much,” Bright-Kaufman said.

   This is suggesting that advanced classes are too accessible and students are simply setting themselves up for failure, which in turn is not preparing them for college.

   While there are compelling arguments for both AP and dual credit classes, as well as whether or not they should be taken at all, it is ultimately up to the student to decide what is best for them. The shifting dynamics of high school and college education are creating new challenges that may be beneficial to some students while detrimental to others.

A student conducts a research project in an AP Biology class. Photo courtesy of MCT Direct

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Preparing for Education After High School