Shifting Patterns in AP/IB Credits

I received a report from the Dean’s office today about the number of AP/IB credits we have awarded in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences over the past three years (2010-2012). The numbers are interesting, I think, only because they show where we are headed in the coming decade, namely, toward a place where more and more of our general education curriculum is being delivered by high schools rather than by us.

In 2012 our college handed out 6% more AP/IB credits than we did in 2010 and in history that increase was just under 12%, with the largest amount of both the credits awarded and the increase being in U.S. history.

The 424 credits we gave out in 2012 works out to 141 seats unfilled in our general education courses, which equates to around 7% of our enrollment target for courses at the 100 (introductory) level. [enrollment targets here] While those 424 credits work out to well under 1% of our overall enrollment target for history enrollments, if all of those students were paying in-state tuition (which they aren’t, obviously), they represent just a whisker over $166,000 in tuition revenue. Were they all paying out of state tuition (which they aren’t), the lost revenue would be $487,000. So that’s the range of tuition lost: $166,000 – $487,000.

Given that all the economic trends seem to be against us these days — decreasing state investment in higher education (everywhere, not just in Virginia), pressure both from legislatures and from the market to hold the line on tuition, demands that more and more students graduate from college every year, and so on — we cannot afford to give away somewhere between $166,000 and almost $500,000 and expect the university to continue to fund us at the level we are currently funded at.

But we don’t have any choice.

Each year, more and more students are enrolling in AP or IB programs at America’s high schools and so with each passing year we can expect to give away more and more credits to those students who score well on their tests, because refusing to give them credit is not one of our options any more. I have already written about this problem and its associated issues (more and more students going to community colleges, rapid growth in the market for online education), so in some ways, this AP/IB report was just another confirmation of what’s been worrying me about our future.