Dartmouth College recently announced it will no longer accept Advanced Placement credits from incoming freshmen, sparking a debate concerning the academic worth of Advanced Placement credits at all college institutions, including Elon University.
Dartmouth made the decision after its psychology department questioned the academic rigor of the AP psychology exam. To test its suspicions, the department administered a version of the Psychology I final to 100 incoming freshmen who scored a five on the AP exam. Ninety students failed the test, and beginning with the class of 2018, Dartmouth will use AP exams as placement tests instead of course equivalents.
The most selective institutions in the United States have long been stingy with AP credits —Harvard University only accepts a five, the top score, on AP exams — but Dartmouth’s announcement added a new dimension to the AP phenomenon, one that is very prevalent at Elon.
According to Robin Straka, associate registrar, 747 of 1,426 incoming freshmen submitted AP scores to Elon, and 551 received credit for at least one AP course.
Elon accepts AP scores for 33 tests, offering credit hours for course equivalents, and the university is not considering any changes to its AP policy, according to Mary Wise, associate vice president of academic affairs.
Though Elon awards credits for a large number of AP courses, Elon students, faculty and staff hold various opinions about the merits of swapping test scores for course hours.
According to Wise, there are advantages and disadvantages to validating college courses. Advanced Placement courses can prepare students for college-level work, but Elon’s experiential learning philosophy offers a whole different experience, she said.
Mark Snyder, an adjunct business management instructor, agreed.
“Any class administered in a high school setting is conducted under a very different dynamic than a collegiate setting,” he said.
Some students believe the college atmosphere better facilitates their understanding of advanced subject matter. Freshman Zoe Parower received credit hours for AP psychology, but she said the course did not provide a good foundation for her psychology major.
“I wish that I could take psychology in a college setting,” she said. “Now that I’m here, I feel like my high school course was a joke.”
Other students believe AP credits are both academically and financially valuable. Freshman David Comerford said he believes elite schools are disregarding the necessity of AP courses for students who do not have the finances for their dream schools.
“I know my family saved a lot of money because I took the time to study for my AP exams,” Comerford said.
Elon accepts scores of four or five on most AP exams and determines the acceptable minimum score for each test through a faculty vote.
“It’s possible that some future change in Elon’s curriculum, or a change in the performance of students with AP credits, might cause us to change our use of these scores,” Wise said, though no changes are currently under consideration.