Earning College Credits While in High School

AP credits don’t transfer as well as true college credits

AP credits don’t transfer as well as true college credits

Why can’t high school students take college courses in high school — and earn credit towards both degrees at the same time?

This is one of the thought-provoking questions posed by Ron Galatolo, Chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District, on a recent College Smart Radio program with Beatrice Schultz.

As Chancellor since 2001, Galatolo knows the ins and outs of education.

The San Mateo County Community College District serves approximately 45,000 students a year who study a broad array of subjects, from accounting to engineering to nursing.

Galatolo thinks a lot of about the concept of “vertical integration”, which refers to the transition from high school to a four-year institution – often with a stop at community college in between. He believes the District has done a good job with vertical integration, but there is still room for improvement in terms of providing more options to students.

In these challenging times of rising tuition costs, crowded lecture halls, and impacted majors, it’s natural for students (and their parents) to want a head start on college requirements.

However, there are currently very few alternative routes for transitioning from high school to college, beyond the traditional path.

For now, the integration of college courses into high schools is found in concurrent enrollment programs and “middle college”, where students take college and high school classes simultaneously. The students who participate in middle college are ones who didn’t fit into the traditional high school setting and take college courses while still graduating with a high school diploma. Concurrent enrollment students attend a high school and take both college and high school classes.

For the majority of high school students, however, it is difficult to find college courses at their school. Galatolo states that some students “go to high school all day long, and if they want to go to college, they tend to come to night class, when they should really be at home studying for the classes they took during the day.”

To some, Advanced Placement (AP) classes is seen as equivalent to college courses. While this may be true in some sense, Galatolo argues that AP credits don’t transfer as well as true college credits and that AP classes aren’t as useful as they once were. And the only reason why they are still popular is “because high schools are often measured per year by how well their AP students do and they are not measured by how well their college students do.”

Galatolo posits that high schools should have college courses integrated into their curriculum, on the high school campus.

“Imagine a high school student walking down the corridor of their high school and having a choice to walk into either a fourth year high school level English course or go into a college level course and actually get college credit.”

For this idea to work, both college professors and high school teachers would need to embrace it.

Galatolo believes teachers and administrators can be receptive to the idea, if it’s executed well. But first, he says, we would need to “break down some barriers.”

Ron Galatolo, Chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District, was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on July 6th, 2013.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Amanda Munoz

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