Woodland students may earn four times as many college credits and will take nearly 10 times as many AP exams this year, all free-of-charge

During the 2021-22 school year, the Woodland High School student body has enrolled in classes totaling 640 free college credits from the College in the High School program

All students attending Woodland High School can earn college credits while still attending high school with absolutely no cost to them thanks to the hard work and dedication of school staff ensuring every student can work toward their futures. 

Dr. Phillip Pearson, WHS principal, emphasizes the priority of removing financial burdens so every student can achieve his or her dreams. Photo courtesy Woodland School District
Dr. Phillip Pearson, WHS principal, emphasizes the priority of removing financial burdens so every student can achieve his or her dreams. Photo courtesy Woodland School District

During the 2021-22 school year, the Woodland High School student body has enrolled in classes totaling 640 free college credits from the College in the High School program after students receive a passing grade, an increase of 400 percent from 160 credits taken the prior year, and students taking Advanced Placement classes – who also earn college credit if they pass the AP exams – will increase 962.5 percent from eight exams taken last year to 77 taken this year.

For many students, the financial burden of paying for the College in the Classroom program or paying for AP exams prevented them from earning college credits. “When you remove that burden, it’s amazing how many students will take advantage of the programs and truly succeed at them,” said Terra Pfeiffer, a school counselor at the high school.

Studies show that students who earn college credits during high school are far more likely to pursue and succeed in post-secondary education. 

“We wanted to create equity throughout the school by removing the financial burden that comes with paying for earning college credits during high school,” explained Dr. Phillip Pearson, principal of Woodland High School. “Additionally, students are more likely to persist in a post-secondary program – both two-year and four-year programs – if they have already accumulated credits in high school.”

Studies show students who earn college credits in high school are more successful in post-secondary education. Photo courtesy Woodland School District
Studies show students who earn college credits in high school are more successful in post-secondary education. Photo courtesy Woodland School District

In addition to the College in the Credit Program, Woodland High School pays for every student enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes to take the corresponding AP exams – a requirement to receive college credit for the class – free-of-charge, a savings of $96 per exam per class. 

“While some states provide a GPA bonus for taking AP classes, Washington State does not, so we wanted to help our students who enroll in these rigorous classes by removing any barrier to earning college credit from the classes,” said Pearson. “By paying for every student’s AP exam, students taking the AP classes can earn college credits simply by passing the exams for their classes without the financial burden of having to pay to take the exams with the potential of failing and not earning credit.”

The staff also wanted to encourage students who may not have previously planned to go on to a post-secondary community college or university due to financial constraints to reconsider. “There’s an aspirational quality we want to offer to all of our students: if they already have college credits when they graduate high school, they will be more likely to consider a post-secondary education than if they had no credits,” said Pearson.

Yet another benefit stems from potentially increased student success earning college credits in high school instead of attending a college through Running Start. “Our research shows students who earn college credits while staying at the high school campus have a much higher success rate than if they leave campus to take the classes elsewhere,” said Pearson. “If the students stay at the high school, our staff can monitor their progress and step in with support and additional tutoring early on.”

The funds to pay for both the College in the Classroom Program and the AP exam fees come from grants provided by Washington State, and, thanks to changes to eligibility rules, provide all students attending Woodland High School with the opportunity to earn free college credits. “Previously, if a student lived less than 20 miles away from a local college, they wouldn’t be eligible to earn tuition assistance at the high school and this discrepancy often served as a disadvantage to students who would otherwise make use of the assistance,” explained Pearson. “Thanks to changes made to the funding models, we can now provide free college credits to all of our students with those most in-need eligible to receive even more credits free-of-charge.”

All Woodland High School students may earn free college credits through College in the Classroom or by taking Advanced Placement classes. Photo courtesy Woodland School District
All Woodland High School students may earn free college credits through College in the Classroom or by taking Advanced Placement classes. Photo courtesy Woodland School District

All Woodland High School students who meet the requirements of the college courses are eligible to receive five credits free-of-charge with at-risk students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program and/or the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act eligible to receive up to ten credits for free. “We want to make sure every single student has the opportunity to graduate from high school with a head-start on their post-secondary education plans,” said Pearson. “For those in need, we want to ensure they have even more assistance since the more credits they earn in high school, the more likely they will be to pursue a post-secondary education.”

The staff established the concept of breaking down all potential barriers to student success as the priority for funding college credits for all students. “We asked ourselves, ‘what are we aspiring for on behalf of our students?’,” said Pearson. “By removing the financial and logistical barriers to earning college credit during high school, the question is no longer ‘how’ or ‘why’ but ‘why not?’”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

Information provided by Woodland School District.

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