Policymakers and other education stakeholders sometimes wonder aloud about the relative advantages and disadvantages of dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP), and other mechanisms to allow high school students to earn college credit. I just recently revisited a very good 2009 report providing one state's experience on this issue.
Published by OPPAGA, the Florida legislature's research arm, the study surveyed 8,769 Florida college students who had earned college credit through AP, dual enrollment, International Baccalaureate, and AICE (the Advanced International Certificate of Education, offered in 14 districts in the state at the time of the study). Ninety-two percent of these students reported that they were able to apply these so-called "acceleration credits" toward general education requirements, as well as prerequisite and elective requirements. Students also indicated these credits helped them prepare for the demands of college-level coursework, and helped them stand out in the college admissions process. Students who earned acceleration credits in high school also tended to graduate college "with fewer excess credit hours."
However, nearly one in four (23.5%) of the survey respondents indicated that they retook a course for which they could have applied an acceleration credit. Of these students, 78% retook a science or math course. Fifty-six percent of these students did so of their own accord, and had various reasons for doing so, including "to help boost their college GPA and to better prepare themselves for upper division coursework." The other 46% of students retook courses because the university or their advisors strongly advised to do so.
Due to class size limits, lab equipment and materials, and safety precaution costs, science courses in particular--both at the high school and college level--can be more costly than courses in other core disciplines. The report does not estimate a dollar amount the state lost by students' retaking courses for which they had earned acceleration credit, but it may be substantial. The report offers three recommendations to stem the number of students retaking courses for which they had already earned credit, including: "[reviewing] the math and science course equivalencies for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams and [validating] these equivalencies with all universities, state colleges, and community colleges. In addition, universities that recommend students retake math and science acceleration courses should provide input about whether the exams are equivalent to the college level courses."