Battle it Out: Dual Enrollment or Advanced Placement?

College Board in the program through which all AP classes and exams are held as well as the SAT.

College Board in the program through which all AP classes and exams are held as well as the SAT.

Maggie George, Editor-in-Chief

As the 21st century has set the stage for an increased thirst for academic rigor in budding scholars throughout high schools everywhere, secondary and post-secondary administrations have had to supply an advanced demand for learning. This has led to an increase in access to curriculum that goes beyond the high school graduation requirements for students who wish to excel in their studies. Both The College Board and colleges across the country have collaborated with high schools in order to create options for this breed of young learners. 

Entering high school, students may find themselves with an array of paths in front of them, each unique to the future goals they wish to achieve. Whether it be trade school, university, community college, medical school, joining the workforce, or anything else after secondary school, there is an option that is designed to achieve this goal. These courses can provide useful skills that can be applied later in academic careers, but the most enticing aspect of these courses is the college credits that they can provide. On the one hand, Advanced Placement (commonly known as AP) classes are a nationwide standardized curricula that specialize in teaching entry level college material to high school students from the comfort of their own school with their own teachers and classmates. After completing the class, students may choose to take the AP exam which allows them to potentially earn credits for college depending on their score. Alternatively, dual enrollment is the option to be enrolled in a high school and a college at the same time without first completing a high school degree. Students that opt into dual enrollment classes have (in most cases) the responsibility of traveling to a college campus  and sitting in on lectures/labs, similar to the everyday life of a college student. What is particularly special about being dually enrolled is that the high school pays most (if not all) of the tuition for the college classes. This means it is possible to receive college level education without paying the premium prices.

Now, what is the debate here? These both seem like great options that can fit each specific students’ needs. However, what I invite you to explore is the stark contrast between the two: and that is monopoly. 

For the College Board, there is an exclusivity to what they are providing. The only alternative to taking college level classes in high school is what is called International Baccalaureate, which is rarer in availability compared to AP. The College Board, since it is not funded by taxes from state departments of education, directly profits from the material and opportunities that they provide. Each college has its own unique relationship with the College Board and AP classes, so there is no regulating force keeping a balance of corruption in the industry. 

However, when it comes to dual enrollment classes, there is competition between colleges and high schools. For example, Caledonia High School offers dual enrollment opportunities with Grand Rapids Community College, Aquinas College, Davenport University, and Calvin University. Not only do students have the choice of which college suits them best, but each high school benefits financially from maintaining a large student population, so if one college or high school does seem like the right fit, there is always the choice of finding another one that does.

The benefits of exploring dual enrollment opportunities far outweigh the drawbacks of travel, resource purchases, and increased workload. Students who choose to enroll in high school and college simultaneously gain a higher quality education, Additionally, students that explore this opportunity have an easier time of transferring their credits being applied to the college they choose to attend after high school. If the student decides that they do not want to attend that particular college after high school, their credits will often be transferable to other colleges/universities besides the one where they had earned those credits”. 

There are always choices to make when it comes to one’s future, but setting up for success as early on as possible is always the best answer.  For high school students that are college bound, it is more beneficial for their future education for them to take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities rather than to follow the traditional path of taking Advanced Placement classes and exams offered at their high school through the College Board.