Despite national shifts, Northwestern will retain current AP policies

Amy Whyte, Reporter

Although some top-tier universities have recently reconsidered their policies on accepting advanced placement credits, Northwestern has no immediate plans to do the same, University officials said.

Last week, Dartmouth College announced its decision to no longer accept AP scores as college credit, beginning with the class of 2018. Columbia University, which currently allows students to count up to 16 points of AP credit toward graduation, also plans to review its policy this year.

Northwestern currently allows students to apply as many as 13 AP credits toward most four-year bachelor’s degrees. The University is not planning to make any “major changes” to its current policy, Weinberg assistant dean Richard Weimer said.

“By and large, the departments at Northwestern have a high opinion of the AP program,” Weimer said.

Dartmouth officials based their decision to stop accepting AP credit on concerns that high school AP classes are not truly the equivalent of college-level classes, according to an Associated Press report.

“AP classes sometimes don’t measure up,” NU chemistry Prof. SonBinh Nguyen said. “Some teachers only teach students how to do well on the exam.”

However, Nguyen said students who use AP scores to place out of introductory level chemistry courses do no better or worse in upper level classes than students who took their introductory courses at NU.

“Statistically, you can’t see a difference,” Nguyen said. “In an organic chemistry course, freshmen with fives (on the AP Chemistry exam) do almost the same as sophomores.”

Mark Witte, director of undergraduate studies for NU’s department of economics, said the issue with AP credits is not so much whether AP classes are equivalent to introductory college courses. The more important question is whether students should retake introductory classes at the college level or just move on to more upper-level classes, he said.

“The question that has to be asked is what is the best use of somebody’s time at Northwestern,” Witte said. “If you’re going to take a fixed number of courses here and you’re someone who takes introductory economics or introductory statistics, you might not be able to take as many upper-level courses.”

Under Dartmouth’s new policy, students will still be able to use AP scores to place out of introductory courses, much like taking any other placement exam. But Witte said he thinks implementing a similar policy at NU would take away the incentive that students currently have for opting out of introductory level courses.

“You’d see people taking introductory courses just to get a good grade on their record,” Witte said. “Giving a credit creates an incentive for people to move on to a higher level.”

Weinberg sophomore Neelesh Nath, who came into NU with 15 AP credits, said he did not think using AP credits to place out of the introductory macro- and microeconomics courses put him at any particular disadvantage while taking upper-level courses. Instead, he said he has more flexibility with his schedule and the opportunity to graduate early if he chooses.

“AP credits make it a lot easier,” Nath said. “I haven’t had to take five classes a quarter at all, and I could still graduate in three years, no problem.”

Weimer said if any changes were to be made to NU’s current AP credit policy, they would be made on a purely departmental basis. With over-enrollment already an issue in many introductory science courses, Nguyen said he thinks it is unlikely the department of chemistry would stop accepting AP scores.

“If a student can test out, good for them,” Nguyen said.