A new policy requires Arkansas’ public colleges and universities to award course credit to students who have scored at least a 3 on an Advanced Placement exam.
The policy, approved last month, is designed to reduce costs for college students and ensure uniformity among state institutions for Advanced Placement acceptance standards, according to an Arkansas Department of Higher Education news release.
Mike Fotenopulos, an academic coach for the Springdale School District, said he believes the change will encourage more students to take Advanced Placement courses and attend college.
“It’s kind of a banner day, quite frankly, for kids who take Advanced Placement,” Fotenopulos said.
Advanced Placement courses are rigorous, college-level classes that are offered in high schools and provide students an opportunity to earn college credit. Students must earn a certain score on the end-of-course exam, which is graded on a 1-5 scale, to earn college credit.
Until now, state institutions have differed somewhat on what exam grade qualifies a student for college credit.
A student attending the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, for example, would have had to score a 4 on the world history Advanced Placement test to qualify for credit for one of the university’s world civilizations courses. Another student at Arkansas State University would have needed to score only a 3 for this credit, according to the schools’ websites.
Many students start at a community college before transferring to the University of Arkansas. In some cases, a community college accepted a 3 on Advanced Placement exams for credit, while the university didn’t. That was frustrating for transfer students, Fotenopulos said.
“Don’t stall a kid’s academic career out of a community college,” he said.
Twenty-two other states — including bordering states Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas — have adopted state or systemwide Advanced Placement credit and placement policies. Nearly all of these policies award college credit for scores of a 3 on an exam.
The state began discussing the new policy last summer, said Mason Campbell, academic and student affairs specialist at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
“That’s all part of our master plan for higher education to impact student success and affordability,” Campbell said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has supported the move, Campbell said.
Arkansas has paid for all Advanced Placement exam fees for public school students in the state since 2012. Arkansas and Washington, D.C., are the only state and city in the nation that pay for Advanced Placement exams for all students regardless of economic means, according to the Department of Higher Education’s news release.
Exam fees range from $53 to $83, depending on the student’s economic background.
The College Board offers 38 Advanced Placement courses. Arkansas’ new policy applies to 24 of them, the most popular ones typically taken as part of the general education requirement on an associate and bachelors degree level. It applies only to students starting college this fall and later, Campbell said.
Suzanne McCray, vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, said the policy affects 2,296 students enrolling this fall, as well as those who have taken concurrent classes since last summer. They will gain more than 10,000 credit hours because of the policy, she said.
“Any other students who would like credit retroactively will need to request it, and we will award it, but it will be on a case-by-case basis,” McCray said.
The total hours awarded for Advanced Placement courses in 2016-2017 was 16,587 for 1,928 students at the university, McCray said.
The university charges in-state undergraduate students $246 per credit hour. But the school isn’t necessarily in danger of losing much tuition revenue from the policy change, because students often use the credit they get from Advanced Placement to take other courses, McCray said.
Some students may want to take a college course they are eligible to receive credit for anyway, especially if it’s a subject in which they plan to major, she said.
The policy change makes it easier to explain to students and families their in-state benefits for success in advanced classes, said Jennifer Morrow, the Bentonville School District’s director of secondary education. Some out-of-state and private colleges still will have different standards, however.
“We’ll always have that confusion,” Morrow said.
And concurrent classes — college-level courses qualifying for academic credit in both high school and college — offer an advantage over Advanced Placement courses because they represent “real college credit on a real college transcript,” Morrow said.
Metro on 05/26/2018