Advanced Placement Examination Credit Policy for General Education

ASCCC Educational Policies Committee Chair

More and more students are completing Advanced Placement (AP) examinations while enrolled in high school and expecting that credit to be honored at colleges and universities. In fact, all three segments of the California public higher education system offer some credit for AP scores of 3, 4, and 5.  However, each individual institution within each system determines how that credit will be awarded.

This situation can be confusing for students as they are trying to navigate their way through higher education in California. However, the issue is not a new one for the college systems. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges has been deliberating and discussing the application of AP credit for at least ten years, if not longer.

In years past, the ASCCC has examined AP Credit practices and put forth recommendations for California community colleges to simplify the process and create a more uniform approach when possible and appropriate. The ASCCC has numerous resolutions and publications regarding AP credit. Some of the resolutions have called for investigating the feasibility of establishing statewide standards to be used for the application of AP credits (S05 9.03), reviewing research on AP credit policies and procedures (S94 4.05/F06 4.02), and developing a best practices paper and calling for local senates to research practices used by their colleges regarding awarding AP credit (F06 4.02).  Several Rostrum articles were published in response to these resolutions, including “Now Is the Time for Systemwide Advanced Placement (AP) Policies and Procedures” in February 2008, “California Community College (CCC) General Education (GE) Advanced Placement (AP) List” in May 2008, and “Establishing a Systemwide California Community College General Education Advanced Placement (CCC GE AP) List” in March 2009, the last of which argued for consistency in applying AP scores to associate degree general education area requirements.  Ultimately, the plenary delegates adopted Resolution 4.01 S09, Adopt and Publicize California Community College General Education Advanced Placement (CCC GE AP) List and Template, resulting in the dissemination of the CCC GE AP list and template to the local senates for consideration and adoption.

More recently, the issue of awarding of AP credit has arisen again and has increased in significance in light of the statewide emphasis on creating educational pathways, improving curricular portability, and reducing time to completion.

On September 23, 2016, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1985 Advanced Placement Credit (2016, Williams). This law requires that beginning January 1, 2017, the Office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, in collaboration with the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, will develop and require each community college district to begin adoption and implementation of a uniform policy regarding Advanced Placement (AP) Credit for General Education. This policy must be in place for the 2017-18 academic year.

In accordance with the law, the policy will be that any student who passes a College Board AP Examination with a minimum score of three in a subject matter similar to that of the AP Examination, the student will be awarded general education credit. Each community college is required to post the most recent AP credit policy on its website.

Earlier versions of AB 1985 proposed by Assembly Member Das Williams did not limit the policy to general education credit. Certainly, colleges should offer students credit for any appropriate course for which the student has learned the material and fulfilled the requirements. However, good reasons also exist that a community college may not offer credit for some courses or certain AP scores.  Curriculum is not uniform in the California community colleges, and thus each college must ensure that the content of its specific courses is covered by the AP examination. In addition, students may actually suffer if a college grants AP course credit that the college’s local transfer institution will not accept.  For these reasons, faculty must be able to determine locally what is best for their students, their colleges, and their transferring universities.

In December 2016, a survey was developed by the ASCCC and disseminated to local colleges seeking information detailing local policies regarding the awarding of AP Examination Credit in general education areas. The results of this survey, along with the policies in place in both the California State University and the University of California systems, were considered in drafting policy language for awarding AP examination general education credit in the California community colleges.

The policy language was drafted by representatives from ASCCC and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in consultation with members of the California Intersegmental Articulation Council. The policy language should be available to local colleges during March of 2017. Each college must work to have this policy in place for students entering its institution by Fall 2017.

The bill language also has another requirement: “Periodically review and adjust the policy adopted pursuant to subdivision (a) to align it with policies of other public postsecondary educational institutions.” This statement ensures that the ASCCC and the Chancellor’s Office work with local colleges to keep the policy up to date and appropriate, with language to best serve the students moving through the community college system.