All of California’s 113 community colleges could be required to award college credit to incoming students who scored a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement exams, under a bill currently before the state Senate.
Assembly Bill 1985, sponsored by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, calls for community colleges statewide to adopt the same AP exam credit policy that the University of California and California State University systems use.
Currently, California’s community colleges can determine individually what scores high school students need on AP exams to earn college credit. Some can also decide not to accept AP exam scores at all. That’s created a hodgepodge of rules statewide.
Students who receive college credit from AP exams are allowed to take fewer general education courses and can enroll more quickly in upper-division classes, saving them time and money.
According to the College Board, publisher of AP exams, most California community colleges already recognize a score of 3 as the minimum for college credit. However, 24 colleges require scores of 4 for credit, six colleges require a score of 5, and 10 community colleges have no AP credit policies at all.
“Most students are not even aware that community colleges have different AP credit policies,” said Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.
Williams said the lack of a statewide AP credit policy creates an unnecessary barrier for students’ receiving and transferring credits, often extending the time it takes to earn a degree, leading to higher tuition costs.
“Most students are not even aware that community colleges have different AP credit policies,” Williams said. “Why some colleges require a score of 4 and others require a score of 5 serves no function other than having students take a course they might not need to take.”
Williams said examples of varying AP exam credit policies among colleges that are often just a few miles from each other can be found throughout the state.
At Costa Mesa’s Orange Coast College in Orange County, for example, students who earn a score of 3 on an AP U.S. history exam receive three units of college credit, allowing them to skip a general education history course. At neighboring Irvine Valley College, students receive no college credit for the same exam, regardless of their score.
Williams said it was also unfair for some community college-bound students to have more stringent rules for earning college credit from AP exams than students bound for UC or CSU campuses.
The state Assembly passed the bill by a 73-2 vote in May. The full Senate could vote on the bill in coming weeks.
Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, who opposed the bill in May, said during an Assembly hearing that forcing all community colleges to follow one set of rules for AP exams restricts the academic freedom of professors and faculty at each campus.
If approved, AB 1985 would require the California Community Chancellor’s Office to work with the Academic Senate to create the uniform policy by the start of the 2017-18 school year.