Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
It should go without saying that the College Board’s educational mission shouldn’t be influenced by politicians’ personal agendas. But some of their latest decisions have cast doubt on whether that has always been upheld.
Up until last year, Todd Huston, the speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, was employed by the College Board as a senior vice president. He had previously voted in favor of a bill to block teachers from teaching “divisive concepts” that could dramatically impact the scope of public school classes, including AP courses. Though, it’s important to note this bill wouldn’t have affected courses in higher education, including community colleges.
Despite Huston taking political actions that contradict the College Board’s expressed educational mission in a clear conflict of interest, the organization declined to respond. When criticism piled up against the College Board for maintaining this association, it didn’t fire Huston, or even condemn his actions. It allowed him to resign voluntarily and even issued a statement singing his praises. This severely calls into question the College Board’s ability to independently develop national curriculum standards.
And just recently, the organization altered the framework of its African American studies AP course as conservatives decried some of its contents. One of the main instigators, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, blocked the course in Florida schools, though the College Board claimed the move played no role in the course changes.
That’s why every state should allow students to directly learn these curricula through their local community colleges.
The College Board is a nonprofit organization that holds standardized AP exams for millions of students every May. Colleges provide credit to students who earn scores past certain benchmarks. It’s extraordinarily dangerous for one corporation to be exercising so much influence over the courses millions of students pursue, and even more so when that corporation regularly demonstrates poor judgment. But the College Board’s influence doesn’t have to be so immense.
Most community colleges offer introductory courses on topics very similar to both other community colleges as well as APs, which maintains the range of potential options available to students. However, they provide their own distinct curricula and pedagogy, precluding one decision maker from compromising educational integrity in the same reckless manner as the College Board.
If states offered more students an alternative to AP classes through dual enrollment at local community colleges, important decisions about what kinds of content should be covered wouldn’t be made by a single entity. And a significant change, like the College Board removing authors from AP African American Studies, would impact fewer students.
The landmark Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation paved the way for remarkable changes to public education in Maryland. During its implementation, the Maryland State Department of Education mandated that the state must pay for the tuition of students dual enrolled at community colleges that have school system partnerships.
Although this program is in its early stages, it is widely championed as an instrument for making schools more equitable. Dual enrollment as a whole has been embraced by our local school systems here in Maryland and nationally by the Biden administration. It has had a positive empirical impact on student outcomes, including both high school and college graduation rates.
Underrepresented groups in higher education benefit from dual enrollment. Many of these same students have fewer financial resources to use for taking advanced coursework in high school. But when they are able to earn college credits in high school, they can sometimes graduate college earlier, spending less money on constantly increasing tuition costs. That’s why the expansion of free dual enrollment programs across the U.S. would be transformative.
Dual enrollment’s utility is especially meaningful at public schools that offer few AP courses. Not every student has access to the same — or even any — AP classes. However, we can fill that gap by enabling students to pursue these missing offerings at their local community college.
AP courses are the most readily available path for high school students to earn college credit, and a full course load can be much cheaper than the typical community college tuition. But the College Board’s inability to remain independent from political influence and its uneven presence across schools prevent APs from being the best option.
Dual enrollment presents the most accessible option for high school students to simultaneously pursue higher education. Every state must join Maryland in making it free.
Dhruvak Mirani is a freshman computer science and government and politics major. Mirani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.