When Trinity College's Arts and Sciences Council reconvenes this Spring, they will be voting on a proposed curriculum that treats Advanced Placement credits differently than some peer institutions do.
The Imagining Duke Curriculum committee has been drafting a new curriculum for undergraduate Trinity students since Fall 2014. The proposed curriculum includes a year-long course for first-years called “The Duke Experience,” a signature core curriculum with five areas of study, a required secondary depth such as second major, minor or certificate, as well as a "mentored scholarly experience."
However, the proposed curriculum removes credit for Advanced Placement courses—an idea that has controversial at both Duke and its peer institutions.
Currently, Trinity students may use AP credits to replace two of the 34 credits needed for graduation. Students can also count more credits if they plan on graduating early. But the new curriculum will require students to complete all 34 credits after matriculation.
Maria Alcon-Heraux, director of media relations for the College Board, previously told The Chronicle that this would be an unwise move.
“By eliminating AP credit, Duke would be out of step from institutions like Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern, University of Chicago and on,” she said.
Many other peer institutions count AP credit toward some form of course credit. Although Harvard University does not accept AP credits on a one-to-one basis, having enough AP credits allows a student to be in advanced standing, so that they can graduate in three years.
Princeton University has a similar advanced standing program, in addition to allowing AP credit to fulfill general math, physics and chemistry requirements for engineers. Yale University also allows students to graduate in fewer than eight terms with AP credit, and Stanford University permits students to replace up to 45 units out of the 180 required to graduate.
Even though a majority of peer institutions accept AP credit, however, there are also some that have moved towards eliminating it. For instance, Brown University does not count AP credit. According to the University of Pennsylvania’s website for its College of Arts and Sciences, it has eliminated most forms of pre-college credit for the Class of 2021 and onward. Dartmouth College changed their AP credit policy in 2013, a controversial move because students matriculating in Fall 2014 no longer received college credit for AP classes.
Michael Mastanduno, dean of faculty of arts and sciences for Dartmouth College, wrote in a statement at the time that the purpose of eliminating AP credit was “to require our students to take full advantage of the faculty expertise and unique academic resources.”
However, Alcon-Heraux raised concerns about how eliminating AP credit might affect low-income applicants, whom she said might be discouraged by the potential change.
Kate Lyon, who graduated from Dartmouth in 2005, told the Associated Press in 2013 that Dartmouth’s decision showed “very little regard for the fact that students struggle to pay for college." She added that AP credits had saved her about $15,000.
In light of Dartmouth’s change, Lee Baker, former Trinity dean of academic affairs, weighed in on Duke’s AP credit policy at the time as well. He noted that the University wanted students to benefit from the college experience above and beyond what they did in high school.
“We want an eight semester undergraduate experience,” Baker said in 2013. “We want all first-year students to have a shared experience. Our classes are worth the money, and students are connected well to our DukeEngage programs and our study abroad programs.”
The Arts and Sciences Council will vote on a final draft of the new curriculum in February 2017. Suzanne Shanahan—associate research professor of sociology and chair of the Imagining the Duke Curriculum committee—and Provost Sally Kornbluth could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
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