What’s the Difference: Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes?

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Dual Enrollment vs. AP
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One way to make it through college without borrowing student loans — or at least, not overborrowing — is to accelerate your degree.

Imagine arriving at your campus already halfway to your bachelor’s. By using college credit programs, high school students and their families could accomplish exactly that.

What’s dual enrollment/concurrent enrollment?

“Dual enrollment” and “concurrent enrollment” both refer to students taking college classes — and earning college credits — before they graduate high school.

The distinction is slight and relates to where the student takes those classes:

  • Dual enrollment might call for you to drive over to the local college campus or use its online system. It’s “dual” in the sense that you’re enrolled in two schools at once.
  • Concurrent enrollment, meanwhile, often means taking high school and college classes in the same place and at the same time — or concurrently — as taught by a certified teacher.

You can learn about your state’s programs via the Education Commission of the States. Your high school guidance counselor could also point you in the right direction.

What are the differences between dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses?

Many students might be more familiar with Advanced Placement (AP) courses that, like concurrent enrollment, allow them to earn college credit without leaving their high school classroom.

Before signing up, however, it’s worth considering the differences between dual/concurrent enrollment and AP courses.

Dual/concurrent enrollment AP courses
Cost These tend to be more expensive, depending on where you live, but they can be covered by grants from your state and 529 college savings plans. Courses are free, and exams are $94 apiece — but they can’t be paid for using 529 plans.
Credits Credits are awarded in the form of a college transcript upon completion of the course, with no extra exam necessary. Credits are awarded upon passing the AP exam and receiving approval from the student’s college.
Unique benefit You can get a sneak-peek at the college experience as a part-time student. You can enjoy the lower cost and greater convenience of staying on your high school campus.
Potential problem You might not be able to transfer the credits to a new college. You might not achieve an exam score that qualifies for college credit.

Earn college credits before leaving high school

Both dual/concurrent enrollment and AP courses allow high school students to get a headstart on a degree.

You can imagine the fast-tracking of that degree, but you don’t have to wonder about the savings: Consider the scenario of attending an in-state, public school with a College Board-estimated average price tag of $9,410. Graduating in three years instead of four would decrease your total cost of attendance by 29%.

You can score savings whether you enroll in your state’s program or sign up for AP classes on the College Board website — the point is to get going.

And as you weigh the pros and cons of each college credit program, make sure to also review other strategies to help pay for school.

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Check out our top picks below or learn more about other ways to pay for college.
Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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