How College Credit in High School Changes College Students' Course of Study
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Research indicates that earning college-credit while still in high school is a viable approach to reducing time-to-degree. However, neither the mechanism responsible for this effect nor the impact on richness/rigor of postsecondary coursework is well known. Are students taking fewer credits leading up to the bachelor’s degree as a result of receiving AP credit? Do credit-granting AP scores enhance a student’s postsecondary experience by allowing them to place out of classes typically reserved for freshmen and to pursue more advanced coursework once enrolled in college? Finally, we ask whether students who receive credit-granting AP scores on certain exams are more likely to major in that exam’s subject.
In this follow-up study, we address these questions by utilizing transcript data from the Florida public university system for all AP test-takers who completed high school between 2004 and 2009 as well as data from the National Student Clearinghouse. We focus this study on AP STEM exams, though we also determine whether achieving credit-granting AP scores on non-STEM exams increases participation in STEM coursework during college. We use a regression discontinuity design in which the student’s raw AP score represents the forcing variable, thus we effectively compare the course-taking trajectories of students who just barely earned a 3 (credit-granting) and just missed a score of 3 (non-credit granting).
Preliminary results examining Florida public college enrollees who took AP Calculus AB demonstrate dramatic discontinuities in course-taking behavior around the 2/3 threshold. Virtually no students scoring a 2 on Calculus AB took second semester Calculus as a first math course in college and among those students just scoring a 3, this percentage shot up to 10 to 15 percent. Nearly a quarter of students who just missed scoring a 3 on AP Calculus AB took college algebra (a pre-cursor to calculus) as a first math course, while only about 10 percent of students barely earning a 3 took this course.