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Illinois Law Requires College Credit for AP Scores of 3 or Higher

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Illinois has joined a growing group of states that require all their public colleges and universities to use one method of awarding students college credit for Advanced Placement or other advanced coursework.

A new law signed last week by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner requires the state's higher education institutions to award credit for scores of 3 or better, on a scale of 1 to 5, on AP exams. Like many colleges and universities around the country, those in Illinois vary widely in their policies for accepting AP credit. Some permit scores as low as 2, while others demand that students score a 5 to earn credit.

As my colleague Caralee Adams reported in a story last December, a survey by the College Board showed a big variation even within individual colleges or universities: The 1,380 studied had 39,000 policies on acceptance of credit for college-level courses taken in high school. Of those policies, 68 percent awarded credit for AP scores of 3 or better, 30 percent held out for 4, and 2 percent required a 5. A handful of colleges refuse to accept any AP credit.

Backers of the Illinois law wanted to bring more uniformity to state policy on the issue, and also to stem the flow of students who opt for out-of-state schools with friendlier AP-acceptance policies. The new law, which takes effect in 2016-17, still allows colleges and universities to set their own policies governing whether AP credits can count toward a student's major, electives, or general-education requirements.

According to the Education Commission of the States in Denver, 16 states currently have statewide policies for awarding college credit for AP work (and other advanced work such as International Baccalaureate) in high school. Not all of those are policies that require colleges to award credit at a given score point. But they are rules that create uniformity across all of a state's higher-education institutions. A recent move in Virginia will add that state to the list of uniform-policy states, too, notes the ECS's Jennifer Zinth.

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