And while colleges have made some progress helping high school students better manage the application process through platforms like The Common Application, prospective students still encounter a dizzying array of requirements and standards when it’s time to apply.
The state legislature recently stepped up to help students with one aspect of this messy process with a new law that asks state colleges and universities to come up with a uniform system for awarding college credit for student scores on Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests. Right now, it’s left to each school to decide, and that creates a pretty random system that doesn’t make a lot of sense to students in Washington or their families. The Seattle Times editorial board described it this way:
Take calculus, one of the more popular AP exams, as an example. The University of Washington awards one quarter of credit to those who score a three or four on the most common Calculus exam or two quarters of credit for those who score a five. Just 111 miles to the east on Interstate 90, Central Washington University awards just one quarter of credit no matter the score on that test. Every university has its own list of credits for the various AP exams.
Students deciding whether to attend UW or CWU should have an understanding that the credit they earned in high school would apply the same at either school. The same is true for International Baccalaureate credit, which involves another standardized test.
Despite the new law, for lots of reasons (some warranted, others less so), leaders at Washington’s state colleges and universities have been slow to respond and then come up with a plan. According to the Seattle Times, the universities want to review each class and its curriculum before coming up with a standard.
But the point of the new law was to provide students and their families with certainty no matter where they applied to college in Washington. And now, as students settle into their first year of college, they are left wondering whether all that hard work in those rigorous courses will result in real, measurable progress towards their college diploma, either through credit or meeting course prerequisites.
State Sen. Mark Mullet (Issaquah), prime sponsor of this new law, is concerned universities have been too slow to come up with a plan and is hoping higher education leaders will step up for incoming college freshman (and their families). Because programs like these not only help prepare students for college, they also help defray tuition costs and free up course credits for elective or upper-level courses in lieu of entry level course work. And that just makes sense from both an economic and academic perspective.