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High schoolers, stress less for AP tests: threes are the new standard for credit

A stack of books sits on top of a table on the sixth floor of Davis Library on Monday, April 1, 2019.

This week UNC-system leadership implemented a new policy that equalizes the AP credit guidelines for all 16 schools. Instead of each university creating their own standards for students to hit, high schoolers now just have to score a three on their exam, which will give them credit for the same classes across the system schools.

“Our new AP Credit Acceptance policy is vital to the UNC system’s ongoing work to put higher education within reach of every qualified North Carolinian,” said UNC system interim President William Roper in a press release. “This new policy will encourage more high school students across the state to get a head start on their college careers. It will make completing a UNC system education, at any one of our institutions, faster and more affordable.”

Taxpayers in North Carolina have been subsidizing N.C. high schoolers’ AP test costs for years — around $100 per test — and the Board of Governors made the change partly to increase return on the investment. 

“Data shows that students from rural counties and those from families earning less than $60,000 per year could receive credit for up to 45 percent more courses than they did under current policy,” the release said. 

North Carolina spent over $12 million on AP exams in 2016-17, and could’ve granted 40 percent more course credit with the new policy — 13,950 credits would’ve been awarded if all threes made the cut. 

“Each year, the state of North Carolina invests millions of dollars to cover the cost of AP exams for students in the hopes that those credits will shorten the path to a college diploma,” said Andrew Kelly, UNC system senior vice president of strategy and policy in the release. “This change is significant because it will encourage high school students to earn their first college credits before they even set foot on campus, making a degree more affordable and helping more students graduate in a timely fashion.”

This effort is part of a wider game plan from the UNC system to increase rural and low-income enrollment, and boost graduation rates. 

The system hopes the new policy will provide “greater transparency and predictability” to students. Prior to its implementation, for example, students could get credit for AP U.S. history with a score of three at 10 schools, and needed a score of four at the other six.

Although the new rule will remove ambiguity from the AP policies, each university’s board of trustees will have the option to grant exceptions to individual course requirements. 

Gordon Massengill is the AP Specialist at McGraw-Hill Education for the Southern region, and said the new policy “is going to put meat back into the AP program.”

“I think the three or higher move is a step in the right direction to help people go back to the more rigorous AP program,” he said. 

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