Free college credit program struggles for recognition

The CLEP is similar to AP exams in that students can get credits in high school.

Anisha Chandrimani, a neuroscience senior who participated in the post secondary enrollment option program during high school, said her school didn’t inform her of all the options to get college credit prior to coming to the University.

“I don’t think my school did a good job of advertising the process,” she said.

One such option is a test that is currently offered for free, but will incur a cost starting in July.

According to the College Board Web site, Minnesota is the only state that pays for its students to take the College Level Examination Program exam, which, like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests, could give students college credit before they reach the University.

The 2005 “Get Ready, Get Credit” legislative initiative grants Minnesota high school students up to six CLEPs at no charge, through June 30.

But statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Education show 25,988 Minnesota students took AP exams in 2007, while a state summary report shows just 1,527 CLEP test-takers during the 2006-2007 year.

What distinguishes CLEP from other pre-college exams is that students study independently, with no classroom preparation offered. Both the PSEO program and AP tests offer classroom learning.

Christine Dufour, Minnesota Department of Education spokeswoman, said one of the CLEP program’s benefits is that it’s available to all students, even in high schools where AP, IB or PSEO are not offered.

“As with many new programs, it may take awhile for students to be aware of this new opportunity,” Dufour said.

But a CLEP state summary report shows an increase in the number of candidates in the program – with nearly 66 percent growth since 2004-2005.

The University’s Twin Cities campus offers students college credit for three of the 33 exams offered. Other schools, such as the University’s Morris campus, gives students credits for 30 exam subjects.

Wayne Sigler, director of admissions at the Twin Cities campus, said faculty department heads decide whether to grant credit for the exams by checking to see if the tests include the same content as the University’s equivalent course.

AP coordinator Stuart Lade said the AP program, in contrast to the CLEP program, provides a college-course simulation. He said most AP exams involve an essay, whereas most CLEP exams don’t.

“It replicates a curriculum that the student would take in their first year of college,” he said.

Dorothy De Jager, transfer specialist and representative to the Scholastic Committee at the Morris campus, said faculty there also decide which CLEP exams students can get credit for.

Despite the number of offerings, few students come to Morris with CLEP credits, she said.

She said she thinks students aren’t as interested in the rigorous preparation for CLEP exams and would rather prepare by taking AP courses in the classroom.

“We don’t push it, but neither do we discourage it,” she said.