Should the University Accept More High School Credits?

Leah Cardinale, Staff Writer

Did you devote countless hours studying for IB exams just to be told that your college only takes a score 6 or 7? Did you take dual-enrollment courses at your high school with another college, only to find out your university wouldn’t accept those credits? If so, you are not alone in your frustration.

International Baccalaureate, or IB, is a very rigorous secondary program of study that is offered at high schools all over that have chosen to affiliate with the program. Upon completing IB courses, students take exams in each of the major subject areas. These courses may be offered at two levels: standard or higher. Students receive a score ranging from 1-7 in each subject. A total of 24 total points is required to earn the IB diploma, in addition to completion of the core. Similar to AP (Advanced Placement) test scores, students receive their scores, and in addition, they may be sent directly to colleges. 

Yet, despite their similarities, the IB and AP systems do not seem to be receiving equal treatment.

The University only accepts credits from the higher level IB courses and only accepts the hard to obtain scores of 6 or 7. Students are voicing frustration over the IB scale being compared to the AP scale.

“I went to Biotechnology High School in New Jersey, which was an IB school,” senior A.J. Fezza said. “It was at least as rigorous as high schools with AP options. I feel that IB is still a bit undervalued at most universities, including Villanova. Villanova only accepts credits from Higher Level IB courses, and then usually only offers credit when you receive a score of a 6 or 7. I feel like they don’t realize that the IB 1-7 exam scale is not simply the AP 1-5 scale plus two. It is very difficult to receive a 6, and I feel like 5s in IB should be accepted in more subject areas. Additionally, Standard Level IB courses are rigorous enough to deserve credit too. The University of Florida is a good model, as they are incredibly accepting of IB credit at both the Standard and Higher levels.”

Villanova also has a strict policy on dual enrollment course credit.

The University’s webpage states: “College-level work completed prior to high school graduation, including college courses that fulfill high school graduation requirements, may be awarded transfer credits upon receipt of the following: an official letter from the high school principal, secondary school counselor or other educational professional describing the college-level program of study, an official letter from the college/university stating that the courses were taught by members of the regular faculty, open to enrollment by and graded in competition with regularly matriculated undergraduates at the college and a regular part of the normal curriculum published in the college catalog; a course syllabus; and an official, seal-bearing transcript from the college/university showing a grade of C or better. Credit or advanced standing for courses taught at the high school will not be accepted.”

As someone who has taken multiple dual enrollment classes at my high school to receive college credit, it was dissatisfying to not be allowed to use any of the credit I had earned. 

Freshman Josie Calareso voiced similar feelings.

  “I specifically took courses in high school that were dual enrollment because I thought they would give me a head start when I got to college,” Calareso said. “Being told that they wouldn’t accept them simply because the class wasn’t taught on a college campus was extremely frustrating, as many other universities that my classmates are attending accepted their credits.”

This sentiment is not only limited to freshmen.

“It’s very frustrating that Villanova isn’t accepting of dual enrollment credits,” senior Lydia McFarlane said. “I worked very hard in high school to get into those dual enrollment classes and then to do well in them. When I got to Villanova and they only counted for electives rather than the cores, I was forced to take basically the same classes I had already taken, such as core English, history and math classes. The most frustrating part was how I pushed myself in high school in order to pass the AP calculus and AP biology exams, but my credits only counted as electives. As a non-stem major who already had college credits for two sciences and one math, I was still forced into taking Villanovas version of these classes, of which the science courses have negatively affected my GPA.”

Catherine Connor, Vice Dean of Enrollment Management at Villanova, offered some clarity on why Villanova has such a rigid dual enrollment policy. 

“It is becoming more common to accept dual enrollment,” Connor said. “Students come in sometimes and get an associate’s degree because they were at dual enrollment schools. We enroll students here from archdiocesan schools in Philadelphia, we put them in classes here and if they choose to attend college here those credits would be transferable. We want to make sure it [the curriculum] is robust and what they would be learning here. If you are transferring college credit, we want you to have that college experience.”

It seems that restrictions on IB and dual enrollment credits are meant to keep the standards high with regard to what Villanova accepts as college credit. Yet, given the laxity afforded to AP credits, I definitely think there should be more mobility with the IB and dual enrollment methods with regard to obtaining college credit in high schools. Students put in a ton of effort into these strenuous college-level classes, and it is not far to completely discount such classes because of lack of familiarity.