Improving Postsecondary Access Through Advanced Placement Programs

Advanced Placement programs enable students to earn college credit while enrolled in high school, thus creating a new pathway to higher education. However, AP courses are not universally available to students.

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Advanced Placement courses prepare students for college coursework and often provide students with college credits.

  • A 2008 study found AP students had better college graduation rates than students who did not take AP courses in high school.1
  • Thirty-one percent of colleges and universities consider a student’s AP experience when making scholarship decisions.2
  • Depending on the institution, students who score at least a three on an AP exam—the exams are scored on a five-point scale—are eligible to receive college credit at most postsecondary institutions.
  • Supporters of AP courses say they increase the rigor of high school coursework, preparing students for college-level work.
  • President Obama’s “Making College a Reality” initiative calls for a 50 percent increase in the number of students participating in AP or college-level classes by 2016.

Comprehensive AP policies make rigorous courses available to more students. According to the Education Commission of the States, some elements of a comprehensive AP policy include:

  • Requiring all high schools to offer a minimum number of AP courses or offering financial incentives for districts and schools to provide AP courses;
  • Offering accountability incentives for districts and schools to provide AP courses, such as tying AP offerings to school accreditation;
  • Including a virtual school component to assist rural and small schools;
  • Establishing and providing funding for AP teacher training and professional development; and
  • Subsidizing student test fees for low-income students.3

Arkansas has enacted several bills to make AP courses more widely available to students.

  • A 2003 law requires all high school students have the opportunity to enroll in at least one AP course in the four core areas—English, math, science and social studies.4
  • A 1997 law provides for a school to receive $50 for each score of three or better by a student on an AP exam.4
  • The law requires local school districts are required to report student AP scores to the state Board of Education each year.4
  • A 2003 law made AP courses available through distance learning.4
  • A 2001 law increased the cap for AP and pre-AP professional development by $200 per student.4

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1 The College Board. “AP and the cost of college.” (2009)
2 The College Board. “About AP
3 Jennifer Dounay, Education Commission of the States, "Policy Brief on Advanced Placement". (2006).
4 Arkansas Department of Education. “Arkansas and Advanced Placement: A Blueprint for Success.”

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