AP course enrollment on the rise locally; some credit college cost savings

High school students that take AP courses and pass the exams associated with those courses are able to receive college credit / Matt Thielke (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- Local school districts have seen a recent increase in students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and administrators credit this to the acknowledgement of the college cost benefits these courses bring.

High school students that take AP courses and pass the exams associated with those courses are able to receive college credit and thus reduce the amount of credits they must pay for when they attend a higher learning institution.

Dr. Eric Payne, superintendent of Houston County Schools, said that in 2013, 1,718 AP exams were taken in the county. In 2016, he said that number jumped to 3,320.

Payne said that number represents total savings of $3,337,806 for those helping to fund college ambitions among Houston County students based on the average cost of three-hour courses at Georgia universities.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, AP exams accounted for statewide potential college cost savings of $83,285,013 in 2016.

Payne said that he believes people are beginning to recognize the value of these higher level courses. He said they put students ahead when they get to college and also help to reduce cost; a win for both students and parents alike.

He said these courses and their associated exams help to prepare students for the rigor of college level classes through the use of tough textbooks and the execution of two-hour exams.

Floyd Jolley, executive director of teaching and learning for Bibb County Schools, said that Bibb County has also seen an increase in enrollment in AP courses. Additionally, he said that all Bibb County students who enroll AP courses are required to take the associated exams.

He said the parents and students in the county are recognizing the benefits, which is why enrollment has gone up. He said the experiences that students gain in these courses in high school introduces them to the study habits they need to form in college.

Additionally, Jolley said these courses help teachers improve because they get special training to teach AP courses that they are able to apply to other classes that are not AP. He also said that those teachers are able to collaborate with other teachers from across the country who also teach the courses in order to learn methods that enhance their work.

Howard High School ninth grader Eliza Leicht is taking AP Human Geography. She said her older siblings took AP classes so her parents already knew the benefits that the coursework can bring. She said her parents want her to do everything she can to get scholarships or save on college costs because she is interested in possibly a private college.

Belinda Powell, who teaches AP English, Literature and Composition at Howard High School, said AP classes offer a supportive environment for students while facing tougher course loads and lay the foundation for success when they go to college.

She said many parents that have spoken to her after their children have taken the courses said they love them because they are able to save money on college.

Powell said that sometimes, students that graduate and pass the courses come back when they are in college or send her a note thanking her, saying that the classes helped them in college. She said oftentimes, the courses give students the confidence to succeed.

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