A scholastic duel: AP vs. dual credit courses

By Katy Condon

Every May, millions of high schoolers all over the nation sit down to take a multi-hour exam from an array of 38 AP courses offered by the College Board. This yearly feat is undertaken by many students here at Lane Tech as well. 

Being a selective enrollment school, it is not surprising Lane Tech offers many AP courses. What is not offered to the same extent at Lane Tech, however, are dual credit courses. Similar to AP courses, dual credit courses are college level classes offered by local universities to high school students. The universities partner with the school to offer the courses in the high school taught by high school teachers. 

The big difference between APs and dual credit, is that in dual credit classes students do not sit to take the exam at the end of the year for college credit. College credit is given for simply passing the class, which may of course include exams and assessments, but not an AP-style exam for college credit at the end of the course. 

AP courses are offered to all grade levels, and senior Ella Grzeca will have taken six by the time she graduates in May. 

“I’m happy I’ve taken them. But the main reason they try to get you to take AP courses is so that you can have college credit, and some colleges don’t take that credit,” Grzeca said. 

While it is true not every college takes credit for AP courses, even if the student passes the exam, college credit is not the only benefit of taking an AP class. 

Freshman Athena Solberg is taking AP Human Geography this school year, and she points out that even if she doesn’t get college credit she’s still happy she took the course. 

“My teacher told me that not a lot of colleges take the AP Human Geography credit. So I don’t think it’s going to be worth it. But I’m happy that I got the experience taking an AP class So it prepares me for more in the future,” Soldberg said. 

While all public Illinois higher education institutions have to accept AP scores of 3 or higher according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, this doesn’t account for out-of-state schools or private institutions. 

Lane also offers another kind of dual credit class that does have an AP exam at the end of the course — a class that is AP level equipped with the exam in May, but is also tied to a local university. The dual credit offers students who don’t pass the AP exam but who do pass the class a chance to still get college credit. 

Dual credit classes are recorded on one’s transcript as having taken a course at the university. AP credit is up to the discretion and policy of the university one attends to decide whether or not to award credit for the classes. 

There are dual credit Calculus and English courses according to the Lane Tech course catalog. Katherine Ewers teaches one of these classes at Lane, AP Literature and Composition Dual Credit, through Loyola University. 

One of the benefits involves becoming a full-fledged student at Loyola University,” Ewers said. “Students have access to the library, and other opportunities.” 

One other common similarity between AP level courses and dual credit courses is an elevated level of rigor compared to a regular high school course. The two options combined in the AP dual credit classes create an even higher level of difficulty, but still something comparable to a regular AP course. 

The discussions are a little bit different, and I have higher expectations for writing assignments, but for the most part, I’m the same person. So of course, it’s the same class for the most part,” Ewers said, when comparing her AP Lit dual credit to her regular AP Lit course. 

Grzeca, who is also a student in Ewers’ dual credit AP Lit course, experiences a slightly elevated level of difficulty in Ewers class compared to other AP classes. 

“I think there’s more work,” Grzeca said. “I mean, we have to read at least a few chapters every day, we have a lot more class discussions than I’ve had in previous classes. The dialogue is a bit more open. And I think we work on critical thinking skills a bit more than other APs.” 

The other difference between AP courses and AP dual credit courses is the cost. AP courses alone typically have a cost per exam of $96, but depending upon the course there can be extra fees associated. With AP dual credit courses, students pay the AP fee as well as a dual credit fee to the college that it is associated with. The most recent dual credit tuition cost for Ewer’s course was $195. However, the dual credit fee is cheaper than it would be to attend the college and take the course there. 

“​​One of the biggest advantages to taking dual credit is the money that students save by earning college credit for a much, much lower fee,” Ewers said. 

While there are benefits to AP dual credit courses for students, one of the restrictions for teachers is the extra qualifications they need to be able to teach the course. A dual credit teacher is an adjunct professor at the university, according to Ewers. 

I had to submit a resume, an application, all of that,” Ewers said. 

In the case of Ewers’ AP Lit class, she needed a masters degree in literature to teach the course and needed to be considered an adjunct professor at Loyola University. This qualification is higher than what’s needed to be a teacher at Lane Tech. 

While AP, dual credit and AP dual credit courses achieve the goal of giving students of Lane Tech the opportunity to take courses beyond the high school level and even get college credit, there are numerous pros and cons of all the options for students to consider.

I think that it guarantees that you’re actually going to get something out of the class that you’re taking. So I think I would have taken more if Lane offered more of those [dual credit] classes,” Grzeca said.