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Thread: Subsidies and college admissions

  1. #1
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Default Subsidies and college admissions

    Putting aside party politics for a while, what are your thoughts on the socioeconomic aspects of:

    1. AP classes

    2. AP exams

    3. AP exam fees

    ??





    Some articles to get things started (feel free to provide more articles):

    Obama administration subsidizes AP exam fees for low income students:
    http://communities.washingtontimes.c...ncome-student/



    Expansion of A.P. Tests Also Brings More Failures
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/ed...llege.html?hpw

    “Are we getting more 1’s and 2’s? Absolutely,” said Trevor Packer, vice president of the Advanced Placement program. “But are we getting more 3’s, 4’s and 5’s? Even more so. So the question is whether that increase in the percentage of low scores is a reasonable tradeoff for the even larger growth in high scores. And I don’t know an educator who wouldn’t think it’s a good tradeoff to take the risk and give more courses that we know have been good for the few.”


    Cuts Threaten Access to College Placement Tests:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/ed...ests.html?_r=0

    Trevor Packer, the College Board official in charge of the A.P. program, estimates that because of the fee increases, about 337,000 low-income students will take A.P. exams in May — 29,000 students fewer than projected. Also, he said, fewer low-income students will take multiple exams, leading to a decline of about 47,000 exams.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  2. #2
    Guilty by Insanity Knux897's Avatar
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    AP exams gave me an extra 6 credits when entering college and knocked out a few of my gen. ed. requirements. It's not a lot, but the price of exams is lower than it would be to actually take a college course for those credits. My county pays for all students to take the exams though, and I wasn't even aware that many students had to pay for them on their own until recently. There's that low score trade-off though; while AP exams are cheaper they're much more difficult than their equivalent college course so it really depends on how well the student is willing to work.
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  3. #3
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    I'm getting the feeling that many of the people now taking the exam aren't actually qualified to take it. It's one thing to help poor people pay for these exams; it's quite another to have poor people who have no shot of passing it taking the exam. Quite frankly, one would have to be entirely illiterate to get a 1. Even getting a 2 requires you to completely not understand the entire exam.
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  4. #4
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Eh, I've seen some reasonably smart people get 1s and 2s simply because they didn't know the subject material well.

    But -- if I'm reading Loki correctly -- I'm inclined to agree that I'm not sure how increasing access to a test makes a meaningful difference if people's schooling remains so junk. That said, why not give more people a chance to prove themselves and get ahead in their college track?

    Where I get concerned is if/when they start dumbing-down the AP test to try and reduce the proportion of people who have failed. The College Board (which runs these tests) is getting a healthy chunk of money from these subsidies, and it's hard not to imagine long-term pressure to make the money "worth it" for a larger proportion of test-takers by making the test easier. It's sort of like how our SAT college entrance exams (also managed by the College Board) saw a slow increase in average scores over the course of 10-20 years. Then they added a writing component and increased the top score from 1600 - 2400, making inter-generational comparisons a bit harder without deeper dives into the data.

  5. #5
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    I'm not quite sure how that's possible. The criteria for getting a 1 is basically "doesn't know anything, can't structure sentences".

    You don't have much of a chance of proving yourself on an AP exam unless you're already doing well in other classes. It's like asking someone who doesn't know algebra to take an exam in calculus. If the College Board dumbs down AP exams, colleges will refuse to accept them.
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  6. #6
    Local talking head LittleFuzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    Eh, I've seen some reasonably smart people get 1s and 2s simply because they didn't know the subject material well.
    I barely pulled a 3 on US History myself. Up to that point my personal interests had been military history with a smattering of more general reading on the US government, and in school we weren't offered an AP prep class, just an honors US history class because the head of our school's history department hated teaching to the test and thought we were better served focusing much more strongly on economic history. When I took the test it had a heavy socio-cultural slant to it.
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  7. #7
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    @Loki-

    If you're 16 - 18 years old and you just don't know the subject matter, your sentences will be nonsensical and poorly-structured. Alternatively, if you don't know the subject matter well and believe that test taking is an expression of racism and you're taking the AP US test, you'll use the essay section to draw a plantation with George W. Bush as the plantation owner. Both options will lead to a score of 1. But those are just two examples I'm familiar with.

    Nonetheless, if these tests are increasingly subsidized, is it really hard to imagine people taking it just for the hell of it? Back when SAT IIs (subject tests) had scores that could be hidden from colleges via "score choice", I knew people/was a person would take an SAT II in things they were semi-knowledgable about just to see if they got a good score.

  8. #8
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    I got a 3 as well, but I'm convinced it's because the graders were incompetent and are incapable of using their brain to judge an argument more complicated than ones taught in class (I had the highest grade in class when I took the same class in college). It didn't help that the essay question was about railroads or something equally lame.
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  9. #9
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Btw I've interpreted the situation as being that a greater percentage of those who take the test fail, but a greater absolute number take the test and pass.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  10. #10
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    That's correct. The questions (for me) are:

    1) Whether it's worth the money

    2) Whether it's worth the time of the larger proportion of people who fail

    3) If this will somehow have a long-term effect on the nature or use of the tests.

  11. #11
    King of Ellipses...
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    My AP exam scores earned me enough college credits to skip an entire semester's worth of classes. That is about a $5,000 + interest savings to me, the time I would've had to spend taking those classes for a semester, compared to the, at the time, $75 per test for about 6 - 8 tests, for classes that I already had to sit through.

    Besides that, I did get a 2 on the BC Calculus AP exam, mainly because I wasn't qualified to take it, however our math teacher was quite adamant that she had always had perfect 100% attendance for the exam, and that nobody was going to lower it. That one I knew wasn't worth it, and that I wouldn't score high. I also got a 1 on our Computer Programming AP exam, however I only took that one because there were so few people who took the course to begin with, that I just filled a spot so the exam and course would run at all, which allowed my friends who could pass to take it.

  12. #12
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Indeed, it's worth the money for the test takers who will get a good score.

    I meant if it's worth the money for the government given that increasing proportions of people aren't getting scores high enough to earn them credits.

  13. #13
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Some high schools don't even offer AP courses, or they're few and far between. Our district uses mostly CP (college prep) and CPA (college prep advanced) classes. With an option for direct enrollment in local college/university 101 level classes with super low fees, but only after taking CPA classes and getting special recommendation from the teacher/administration.

  14. #14
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    For anyone who's gone to a community college, how does the work stack up in comparison to advanced high school classes? I get the feeling that the latter might actually be more difficult (it's usually the intelligent/hard-working/motivated people who take advanced high school classes, while most people in intro-level community college classes have GEDs or other serious weaknesses; and yes, I realize many people go to community college because it's cheaper)...
    Hope is the denial of reality

  15. #15
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    It probably depends more on the state, and how they structure educational funding....more than the student.

  16. #16
    Here teachers have a vested interest in students passing the AP exams. Bonuses. I think I remember 1 or 2 kids take the test that weren't in the actual classes. I know most of my history class that ended up in USF passed with at least a 3. While most of the chem class failed (no perm teacher + last period of the day + no motivation = no chance). Don't remember any part of that test that required structuring sentences. Most of us showed up to take the test just to spite the school, waste the fees they were paying, and for the scores to be recorded as such. Teenagers are so fucking stupid.
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  17. #17
    Guilty by Insanity Knux897's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    For anyone who's gone to a community college, how does the work stack up in comparison to advanced high school classes? I get the feeling that the latter might actually be more difficult (it's usually the intelligent/hard-working/motivated people who take advanced high school classes, while most people in intro-level community college classes have GEDs or other serious weaknesses; and yes, I realize many people go to community college because it's cheaper)...
    From what I gather from people back in my high school who went the Dual Enrollment or Early College program route, they say that the courses they took were much easier than their high school courses. This is also considering that Advanced Classes were easy to begin with; they were regular classes with more homework. AP classes on the other hand are often much more difficult than their big college equivalents from my experience. It seems to me that most people (at least in my area) use community college as a stepping stone into state colleges if they were too lazy to apply or if they didn't get in. My record, grades, AP classes I took (colleges would rather see you try and fail an AP course over an early college course) and extracurricular activities helped me get admission into USF. Almost all of my friends go to the local college (I'm not sure if it qualifies as a community college anymore because they recently started to offer a 4 year program though) and after two years plan to step up into USF.
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  18. #18
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Thanks. That's what I thought. I knew a few people who transferred from a community college into my rather mediocre 4-year college, and their grades went from straight As to Cs. This is despite the expectations at the 4-year college being rather low. Heck, I probably put in more work in my AP English class than I did in any English/Lit. class I took in college. There's something amusing about requiring high school students to do more work than an equivalent college student to get credit for the same course.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  19. #19
    Hmm. I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, I feel for the poor student who has busted their butt to learn a complex subject but can't get the credit because they can't afford the fee. On the other hand, this looks suspiciously like a handout to the College Board, since they have a monopoly on this particular area in the US (wanna bet they lobbied hard for this?). On the balance, I'd probably err on the side of subsidizing the cost of the test, though it might be best to include minimal cost-sharing so you don't get as many frivolous test-takers. Perhaps it would be best if local schools decided on who to subsidize rather than a 'fund all comers' kind of system.


    That being said, I think AP tests are becoming less and less relevant at any rate. I took 5ish AP exams (I don't recall any more) and received a 5 on every test. In college, only one of the exams actually got me credit (US History, ho hum), and it was just a humanities elective, and thus largely irrelevant (it did free me up to take two more technical electives). One other exam (BC Calc) helped me get into a fancy honors track for applied math and freshman engineering coursework, but it didn't give me any credit. Otherwise, my science APs were all useless, only good for entry-level courses we didn't even need to take.

    Now, it's possible to argue that my college was particularly finicky or my major particularly demanding, but I have heard from many friends who had similar experiences that by and large their AP exams didn't net them much in the way of savings in their college curricula. If you're going to college and taking a boatload of 100-level coursework, it might help a bit, but otherwise it is likely to be largely superfluous. So, a good learning experience, but the actual test might not help you get ahead very much. Perhaps it suggests that the course (and your grade thereof) is more important than the grade on the College Board exam? If you take the APs as a senior, the colleges don't even get your exam scores until after admissions decisions are made, so your participation in the course is more relevant from that perspective. For that matter, it is my understanding that many universities are now offering only advanced placement (i.e. skipping lower level courses) rather than college credit for many AP tests. The same results can be achieved by taking placement tests at university for free, so why waste the money (or gov't subsidy) on a test that won't do anything for you?

  20. #20
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    I'm not sure that's the case for state-colleges, wig. I know people here who got credit for a semester-worth of credits thanks to AP exams, and it was the same in NY. Also, humanities/liberal arts majors generally need half their credits (or more) in gen-ed courses, which makes AP credits useful.

    I'd have minimum GPA requirements for getting state funding. I don't see the point of letting C students to take exams they have no shot at passing.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  21. #21
    You may indeed be right, Loki, most of my experience with AP credits is with private institutions.

    Tying it to GPA might be a good idea, though it's probably good to focus only on the last year or two rather than the student's entire HS career.

  22. #22
    King of Ellipses...
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Tying it to GPA might be a good idea, though it's probably good to focus only on the last year or two rather than the student's entire HS career.
    I did better on the AP's compared to people who had a higher GPA than me. Others did too. If someone is terrible at math, which would be reflected in their GPA, that doesn't mean that they can't get a 3 - 5 on the Biology or English AP.

  23. #23
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    The point isn't to let only the top people take the AP exams, but rather to have a minimum requirement (say a 3.0).
    Hope is the denial of reality

  24. #24
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    You may indeed be right, Loki, most of my experience with AP credits is with private institutions.
    This makes me suspicious that the private institutions are simply ahead of the curve in devaluing the APs.

  25. #25
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    This makes me want a comprehensive, coordinated, national K-12 educational system. Not this piece-meal state-by-state stuff we have now. But that's not a politically popular position these days, when anything national means federal, and all federal is considered "bad".

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