A college or university education is becoming more necessary – and more expensive. That’s why many students offset the costs of tuition with scholarships and grants. Some students might also consider free college courses as a way to save money and, in some instances, time.
These aren’t the free courses that don’t come with academic credit. In many instances, they aren’t even referred to directly as free. They’re the advanced courses that students take in high school, giving them a head start on their college or university education.
These free college courses often are known as Advanced Placement (AP) courses and, in Florida alone, they save families tens of millions of dollars a year, a report in the St. Petersburg Times noted. Taxpayers, through the academic credits students earn in advance, could save another $30 million, according to the St. Petersburg Times article.
The non-profit College Board offers high schools a total of 33 AP classes, that they can make available to students, the non-profit College Board website shows. They include courses in foreign language, math and science, history and social science. Not all schools offer AP classes, and not all of the schools that do offer AP classes provide all 33 that are available.
When students take AP classes, they can apply the academic credit to colleges and universities throughout the United States and many internationally, so long as they pass exams with scores that qualify them for entry, the College Board website notes. Different schools have different policies, however, and the College Board recommends that students obtain copies of those policies in writing. Often, high school graduates benefiting from these college courses are able to save an entire year of studies after high school, beginning their college or university education in their sophomore year rather than as freshmen.
High schools that are known as “early college high schools” go beyond offering free college courses in the form of AP classes. They provide students the ability to earn an associate’s degree or two years of academic credit while working toward their high school diplomas. More than 200 high schools throughout the country participate in the program, which is intended for students who tend to be underrepresented in colleges and universities.
Individual institutions make nearly free college courses available to high school students. A California university, for example, offers a “young scholars” program whereby qualifying students can participate in two distance learning courses for $3.50. The academic credits that students earn for these particular courses are applied to transcripts from that university, and students can then transfer them to other institutions that accept them, according to the university’s website.
Students often aren’t prepared for college and university studies after graduating from high school. Because free college courses such as AP classes are said to be more rigorous than typical high school classes, students might find themselves more prepared for advanced studies once they move on to colleges or universities. Another opportunity for free college courses is provided by Test Drive College, where students can take a free college course online, and the credits can be transferable. An English composition course as well as several other introductory courses are available to choose from. In addition to saving students time and money on a college or university education, college courses taken in high school might also better ensure student success in their advanced studies.