ACT, AP can cut college costs

Data included on the state report cards for high schools about how students performed on the SAT, ACT and AP tests can translate into money saved for families.

The state of Ohio each year releases the data on the number of students participating in exams like the ACT and SAT — tests some colleges use for admissions decisions and many use to determine scholarship awards — and the average performance on those tests. There’s also data on the percentage of students graduating with honors and taking and scoring a 3 or above — which counts toward college credit by exempting students from entry-level courses at Ohio’s public colleges — on end-of-course exams for Advanced Placement tests.

“From the college point of view, it’s a bargain,” said Bill Slagle, college credit options coordinator at Springfield High School. “Yes, they gave them some semester hours of credit, but we’re getting the type of student we want on campus.”

The data is not used in any of the determination of report card ratings for schools, but it is included as supplemental information on the report card released by the Ohio Department of Education. The graduating class information runs one year behind; the most recent information available is for the class of 2011.

In the 2010-11 school year, Urbana High School had the highest percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher on the AP at 66.7 percent. Greenon High School, West Liberty-Salem High School and Graham High School had the highest mean SAT score at 22 and West Liberty-Salem had the highest mean SAT score at 1124.

“For schools, it shows we’re kind of on the cutting edge of not only getting the students into college but placing them in college successfully with college credit,’ said Slagle.

AP tests — and International Baccalaureate, which only Springfield offers locally — can save students the cost of credit hours at a college or allow them to get to more interesting courses quicker, said Peder Tune, 18, a senior at Springfield High.

“For AP tests, the goal is that you should save money on kind of entry-level college courses, and you can kind of get rid of them so you don’t have to take them,” said Tune, who plans to attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

He is an AP Scholar, a distinction given to students who average a score of 4 on three or more AP tests, which he did his junior year. He will take another 2 tests in May and 4 IB tests. His scores on two exams his junior year will exempt him from entry-level courses at St. Olaf, a private liberal arts college.

At Wright State University, testing out of a course like freshman level English would equal a savings of about $1,000 based on costs per credit hour. At Clark State, it would save about $400.

ACT and SAT scores can also save students money through scholarships. Wright State, Ohio State University and Wittenberg University all list scholarships on their websites — ranging from $1,500 to in-state tuition — that include criteria based on scores on those tests.

“As a guidance counselor, I’m always looking for a way to help my students find dollars, because it’s expensive,” said Don Dunstan of Greenon.

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