Should High School Students Take Advanced College Courses? It is complicated.

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When Abby Farnan graduated from Columbia High School in East Greenbush in 2020, she had seven university-accredited courses under her belt, including advanced placement psychology and biology, as well as credits from foreign languages.

But while her classes are aligned with her career goals – she is now a double major in biology and psychology at Union College – only one course will count towards her undergraduate degree.

The 19-year-old said she had mixed feelings about the rigorous electives and advanced courses she took in high school, accredited by the University of Albany and Hudson Valley Community College.

“I think overall my access points were worth it,” Farnan said. “They raised my GPA and taught me things that really helped me do very well in my introductory college courses. I was more disappointed that my credits from college to high school. “weren’t transferred… that was boring for sure.”

Advanced Placement (AP), ‘college to high school‘ and other dual enrollment programs that allow high school students to earn college credit for a fee have mushroomed in recent years – creating a dizzying array of opportunities. ‘academic options for many students in the ninth year.

In the State University of New York system alone, high school enrollment has increased 40% over the past 10 years.

In 2002, the possibilities for double registration were almost non-existent. Today, 41,000 high school students represent 25% of all enrollment in community colleges in the state, according to figures from SUNY.

Parents unfamiliar with this new landscape tend to balk at the compulsory tuition and AP exam costs associated with the electives their child pursues in high school.

College admissions experts agree that AP courses are the most valuable on a college admission application and cost less than concurrent enrollment credits provided by local institutions.

“I think no one should be paying for these classes and it looks like the high schools are pushing them,” said Dean Skarlis, president of the New York College Advisor, an Albany-based agency that supports high school kids through college. admission process.

There are doubts about the thoroughness of other supposed college-level courses taught by high school teachers, Skarlis said.


Even where there is an articulation agreement between the accrediting community college and the four-year college or university the student aspires to – in Troy, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for example, recognizes many credits in Hudson Valley Community College Engineering Sciences – There is no guarantee that the high level academic credits will directly match any class required by the four-year degree-granting institution, according to Skarlis.

AP courses are nationally recognized and result in 3-5 college credits depending on exam results and college competitiveness. Likewise, International Baccalaureate (IB) courses are recognized by most institutions.

Increasingly, AP courses are accredited by local institutions, which is essentially a source of income for colleges, but is another financial pitfall for students, according to Elizabeth Levine, founder of Signature College Counseling in Beacon, New Brunswick. York.

“When it comes to APs, colleges want to see your AP test scores,” Levine said. “This whole thing of paying for college credits as well is wrong. I always tell my families not to.”

High school college credits are generally offered at a reduced rate by community colleges, as well as some public and private four-year institutions.

Schenectady County Community College, for example, charges high school students $ 64.00 per credit, a fraction of its price of $ 192 per credit for other part-time students. Financial aid and scholarships are offered on a limited basis and may not cover the full cost of credits.

Concurrent enrollment courses could provide a valuable head start for high school students, especially those who know they will be graduating with a professional degree at community college. However, it won’t necessarily save them money.

Between the Excelsior New York Scholarship and other financial aid resources, SUNYs are technically tuition-free for most full-time students from low-income and middle-class homes, making it more difficult to justification for paying these credits in high school.

However, there are advantages to taking dual enrollment courses aside from the savings in time and money. There is evidence that high school students who take college courses are more likely to attend university and graduate within five years than those without options.

Advantages are the strongest among students from marginalized backgrounds and first-generation students, but studies show that low-income students and students of color are the least likely to access these courses.

Four-year community college and SUNY credits earned in high school are subject to transfer into the SUNY system, but some private schools will accept them as well.

Dual enrollment courses also allow students who don’t have a clear career goal to explore their interests, according to Kristin Mesick, academic and professional counselor at Colonie High School.

“Perhaps more importantly, they provide students with experiences that will help them feel more academically confident when they travel to the college campus of their choice,” said Mesick. It doesn’t matter if the credits are transferred, “it’s a win”.

Colony High School currently offers 36 dual-enrolled, college-accredited AP courses, in subjects ranging from the history of art and engineering to introductory sports medicine.

School officials recognize that navigating these course options and determining which ones will be most useful in the future can be a minefield.

To help students make informed decisions, the district is developing an alumni network called CHAIN ​​made up of graduates who can share their college experiences and advise current Colony students.

According to Levine, the safest bet is to choose advanced courses in major subjects.

Taking university-accredited AP and UAlbany-accredited foreign language classes at Saratoga Springs High School has paid off for the twin daughters of Susan Steer, Tess and Emily. Both will graduate a semester earlier, Emily from Bucknell College in Pennsylvania and Tess from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

Tuition fees for both colleges are over $ 55,000 per year, and the family will save tens of thousands of dollars.

“This is proving to be very cost effective, especially for kids who attend private colleges,” Steer said.

Over the years, there has been a lot of talk about increasing access to advanced high school courses, especially for under-represented student populations, but less emphasis has been placed on the quality of these courses.

At SUNY, some changes may be in the works for college courses offered to high school students.

Gov. Kathy Hochul in her Jan. 5 state of state proposed reforming concurrent enrollment programs in the 64-campus public university system. Its 2022 program proposes to encourage high-quality programs that have a proven track record in translating into university credits.

Currently, the grant funding of courses is disconnected from their relative success in helping students advance in college.

“With support tied to success, Governor Hochul will encourage the creation and growth of effective concurrent enrollment programs, and in so doing, will put more and more students on the path to post-secondary graduation.” and the job opportunities that go with it, ”says the governor’s agenda.


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