College credit for test clarified; ap exam score of 3 set by state gas density formula

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.