Should your child take AP or IB classes? It could save them thousands | Green Bay Press Gazette
U.S. News and World Report’s annual college survey lists the average sticker price for a bachelor’s degree to be as much as $159,000.
Scholarships and financial aid can help get that price tag down, but not every student has access to those funding options.
A key way to cut college costs starts in high school classes, specifically with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. Plus most high schools have a dual credit option where students can take college courses and get both college and high school credit.
AP and IB courses are college-level classes offered in high school with the option of taking an exam to earn college credit at a fraction of the cost.
An AP exam costs $97 and an IB exam costs between $76 and $119, depending on the program. The cost of a single credit at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is about $330 for in-state residents, and at UW-Madison it’s $497.
Even by taking one or two college-level course in high school, students who pursue higher education could save thousands of dollars in tuition payments.
Students are often able to speed up the time it takes for them to get a degree, too.
Depending on how many courses a student takes and how well they score on the exams, some students are coming in with as many as 30 credits, according to Jennifer Jones, the assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services at UW-Green Bay.
That can shave off a year of education, getting students their degrees faster and for cheaper.
For Lindsey Gloede, a senior at UW-Green Bay studying communications, the dual credit and AP classes she took at Winneconne High School are helping her graduate a year early.
Having gotten college credit for those classes, Gloede was able to add an emphasis area to her major and take advantage of internship opportunities earlier in her college career.
Gloede also knocked out some general education requirements, or courses that cover the fundamental concepts of a topic or major, prior to getting to UW-Green Bay. That gave her the chance to start in her specific program a semester earlier.
“I was able to start taking my more specialized courses in my emphasis areas a little bit earlier and kind of figure out where I wanted to go earlier, which then led to me graduating early,” she said.
Even though this is her third year of college, she is graduating in May and hopes to go into collegiate and professional sports communications.
AP and IB course subjects cover a range of subjects including math, science, art, English, history and foreign languages. IB exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 7 and AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. If students earn a passing score on the exams, they have the potential to earn college credit.
On IB exams, there is no exact passing score for individual exams but universities typically accept scores of 4 or 5 as passing, according to the IB official website.
A 3 on an AP exam is considered passing, and schools often give more credits for higher scores. For example, UW-Madison will give a student three biology credits for a 3 on the AP Biology exam and five zoology credits for a 4 or a 5.
Five credits at UW-Madison for an in-state resident would cost roughly $2,279, not including any fees associated with certain degrees or classes. By taking an AP exam and scoring high, a student could save over $2,300.
Every college and university has a different policy on whether it grants credit for AP and IB exams and what scores it will give credit for. But all University of Wisconsin System schools accept AP or IB exam scores in some capacity.
High-schoolers get other benefits from college-level courses besides saving money
Aside from the cost savings, there are other benefits to taking college-level courses while in high school, according to Jones.
Students are exposed to new topics and get to explore interest areas more in depth. They also get exposed to the rigor of college classes with the extra support provided in high schools.
“Taking advanced courses in general in high school kind of set me up for success in college,” Gloede said. “I wasn’t surprised at how hard my classes were going to be.”
Having taken an AP, IB or dual credit course in high school increases a student’s likelihood of success in higher education, Jones said.
“(Students) also are more likely to persist and retain every semester while they’re in college,” she said. “And they’re more likely to get that secondary credential, that bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree or whatever they’re looking for, after high school.”
Having taken a college-level course while in high school also gives students a leg up in the eyes of college admissions, Jones said.
But with the importance of a high GPA, should students still take advanced courses, even if they might not get the same grades as they had in others?
Yes, Jones said.
“Just because you were in the class ― you’re exposed to those expectations ― you still are more likely to enroll, you’re still more likely to persist and to graduate,” she said. “The grade in the course doesn’t matter as much as the experience that you’re having.”
Challenging students is good, but don’t put too much on the plate
However, Jones cautions students against going overboard.
Every college has different applicant expectations. If a student is interested in a school that is highly competitive, Jones suggests not taking so many college-level courses that the student’s GPA suffers.
“It’s a balance of challenging appropriately in high school,” she said. “You don’t want to do so much that your GPA drops, but you want to challenge yourself in areas of strength and maximize your time in high school.”
That balance is key. Every student has different responsibilities with some working outside of school or taking care of family members, which may reduce the time they have to dedicate to AP or IB courses.