Advanced Placement rules change for Illinois students

By Ali Braboy

In fall 2016 all Illinois freshmen will be able to receive college credit for AP scores of three or higher.

Advanced Placement courses, commonly called AP, are classes taken during high school that offer college credit if completed successfully, according to the College Board website. The site states that students who take AP classes are more likely to graduate in four years along with increasing their eligibility for scholarships, which saves students money. In August, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law the changes for AP credits in Illinois. 

Charles Tucker, vice provost for Undergraduate Education and Innovation, said more students receiving AP credit is a good idea, if the credit they get leaves them prepared to succeed in later classes.

Although all Illinois colleges are required to give credit for AP scores of three or higher, Tucker said the law allows each campus to decide what score gets credit for a course in their major, elective or general education course.

For example, a University student who receives an AP score of three on the Calculus AB AP exam will not necessarily get credit for Calculus 1 in college. The student could instead receive credit to fulfill a general education requirement, Tucker said.

He said he would be surprised to see many changes come from the new law. One purpose of the bill was to help students with college completion, but students who earn AP credits already tend to graduate at high rates and on time, Tucker said.  

Todd Spinner, academic adviser in the School of Chemical Sciences, said the new law will not affect students in the chemistry department, a school in LAS.

He said almost all chemistry students forgo AP credits — no matter the score — because of the rigor of the classes. If students use AP credits for chemistry, it often causes them to be a semester behind because they are not ready for the secondary classes.

The University requires students to earn a 5 on the AP biology exam to elect out of Integrative Biology 150 and Molecular and Cellular Biology 150. Tucker said the requirement is so high because schools found students failed at high rates when they used AP credit to go directly from high school to secondary biology courses.

The law is tremendous news for Illinois students, Greg Walker, vice president of the College Board Midwestern regional office, said in a statement.

“At a time when AP participation and performance has increased significantly in the state, this law provides more students with a greater opportunity to graduate college on time,” he said. “The College Board is grateful for the leadership of the bi-partisan group of public officials who worked for this result, including Gov. Rauner and the bill sponsors,” Walker said. 

Since Aug. 17, states have implemented unified and consistent state-wide or system-wide AP policies, said Zach Goldberg, director of media relations for The College Board. 

Zachary Browning, sophomore in LAS, said he doesn’t completely agree with the new law, but understands some benefits, such as saving money by applying AP credits to electives.

However, he believes schools should not be uniform in their decisions, such as by having the same AP credit standards. He said some schools are more competitive than others, which gives them an edge compared to others — an education in chemistry from the University might be worth more than the same degree from another college.

During high school, he took AP classes in U.S. government, macro and microeconomics and U.S. history.

He was able to receive college credit for everything except microeconomics, for which he received an AP score of three. The other credits allowed him to fulfill general education requirements and save money.

“If you’re going to take credit for it later in college, definitely make sure that you understand and remember the material,” Browning said.

Upperclassmen wondering if past AP credits can be applied to electives retroactively may be out of luck, Tucker said. The University is still working on administrative details, but in the past, the rules have only applied to the incoming class, not retroactively to continuing students.

Tucker said he is a proponent of AP credits and how they prepare high school students for college.

“There’s no substitute for taking substantive courses in high school and working hard at them to be ready for college,” Tucker said.

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