Freshmen bringing in more AP credits

Jill Jensen

Sarah Hannine started her first year at the University of Minnesota as an academic sophomore.

She is one of an increasing number of freshmen who are entering with credits for required courses, and itâÄôs creating a âÄúdown-tickâÄù in enrollment in the basic first-year classes.

Hannine, an elementary education major, came in with about 30 credits from College in the Schools and Advanced Placement classes.

âÄúWhy not get it out of the way in high school?âÄù Carlson said.

From fall 2007 to 2010, the average number of AP credits students brought into the University increased two points to 15.5, according to University data.

As the quality of the incoming University student has increased, so too has the number of credits each student brings in, said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

Gary Cohen, professor and chairman of the Department of History, said his department has experienced a decrease in enrollment in their introductory courses because they have to compete with AP scores.

âÄúFreshmen can find other ways of taking those same courses and getting the credit,âÄù Cohen said.

The amount of students who had credit for a University course that is equivalent to U.S., world or European history jumped from 665 students to 818 students from fall 2007 to 2010.

The English department has also noticed a decline in classes that fulfill the College of Liberal Arts literature requirement.

About four class sections serving roughly 100 students total have been erased from the department over the past five years, said Michael Walsh, course coordinator for the English department.

Students coming in with credits boost the graduation rate because it gives them âÄúwiggle room,âÄù McMaster said.

âÄúThey donâÄôt necessarily graduate in less than four years, but theyâÄôre able to have a richer curriculum while theyâÄôre here,âÄù McMaster said.

But he said there has been a slight increase in three-year graduation rates, part of which is due to students entering the University with more credits.

Hannine said she plans to graduate in three years.

She said the âÄúleewayâÄù her credits have given her also allowed her to discover her major earlier, because she was able to take classes normally reserved for sophomores.

Pamela Baker, associate director of the University Honors Program, said the University-wide trend of students enrolling with more credits allows students to take on a second major or study abroad, like Hannine plans to do.

 âÄúThere are always students who want to do more, and when they come in with more credits it gives them the freedom to do some of those things,âÄù Baker said.

Sarah Carlson, who also came in with AP credits, said taking advanced classes is now the âÄústandardâÄù in high schools.

âÄúThere was this stigma that if you didnâÄôt take an AP class, you werenâÄôt smart,âÄù Carlson said.

She said not everyone is suited for AP classes, but for those who are, itâÄôs good preparation for college.

Bryan Mosher, director of undergraduate studies in the School of Mathematics, said he hasnâÄôt seen a drop in enrollment because of AP credits, but there are more students testing out of basic calculus.

From fall 2007 to fall 2010, the number of students who came in with an AP test score that fulfilled the basic calculus requirement jumped to 1,175 students from 988.

But Mosher said the increase in students with AP credit has created some problems.

He said the problem with bypassing calculus because of AP credit is the difference in rigorousness of the program âÄî students may not be prepared for the level of difficulty in the UniversityâÄôs program.

âÄúItâÄôs like building a tower âÄî you have to build a foundation before you can build the next level of understanding,âÄù Mosher said.

McMaster agreed, and said that students need to be careful about skipping courses just because an AP credit fills a requirement. They may struggle in subsequent courses without that class.

âÄúThey really need to think long and hard about whether they want to start bypassing some of these basic