Face Off: AP Classes versus Durham Tech

AP: Convenient and Accessible

By: Lucinda Dorrance

There’s a reason AP classes have been around since 1955. Even as interest in Durham Tech’s dual enrollment program increases, hundreds of Riverside students like me still prefer AP classes because of their convenience, affordability, and familiarity. 

All AP classes are currently taught on Riverside’s campus, and AP class registration is already a part of Riverside’s class registration process. This ensures that AP classes can be easily integrated into a student’s schedule and remain contiguous with other courses, and remain available to a broader range of Riverside students. With the exception of freshmen, who are generally limited to AP World and AP Human Geography, most AP classes are available to students in any grade, of any age, with any GPA. 

Unlike Durham Tech’s courses, AP classes are standardized nationally, meaning the course loads and rigor of AP classes are meant to be typical across the United States. This opens up more resources for studying and learning additional course content on the students’ own; which can be incredibly beneficial for ensuring a stronger grasp on course material, and better performance on the final College Board exam. 

A challenge I’ve experienced when trying to pick between dual enrollment courses and AP classes, is that, though the credits all apply to the UNC system, some other colleges and universities, especially Ivy Leagues, don’t accept dual enrollment credits because they can’t guarantee the class the applicant took was up to their standards. For this reason, some students aiming for a particular university will opt to take AP courses instead due to their national relevance. 

Contrary to some dual enrollment courses, AP classes are entirely free to enroll in and the class materials and AP exams in May are fully paid for by Riverside. Besides a potential missed exam or makeup fee, the only other expenses AP classes may require is for textbooks. Some AP classes offer students textbooks provided by the school, or will recommend buying one for additional studying opportunities, which in paperback will usually cost around $20 on Amazon. However, there are also great online resources and study methods that are entirely free to use. 

Some dual enrollment course fees aren’t paid for through CCP either and tend to range from $16-$30, and students will be expected to purchase textbooks and class materials on their own. So, if spending additional money on materials and class fees is a concern, AP classes and their increased affordability is more desirable. 

Another advantage AP classes have is their environments. Dual enrollment classes take place on a college campus, with college students and professors, and a collegiate workload and teaching style. While that experience can be beneficial for some students, other high school juniors—and even seniors—just aren’t ready to thrive in that setting. AP classes offer an elevated class rigor and a different style of learning, without being a different type of school entirely.

Photo courtesy of: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu/unsplash

AP and Durham Tech classes also create different pathways for students after high school. Durham Tech’s CT program for students interested in going to a 4-year college can reward graduates with an associates degree when they graduate from Riverside. While this is favorable for students who know the degree(s) and college they are working towards, students who are still unsure can’t fully commit to the CT program or other Durham Tech classes. Earning an associates degree while still in high school can shave 2 years off a student’s time in undergrad, meaning they’d enter college as what’s essentially a junior, and while academically this sounds great, this can make an applicant less appealing to 4-year colleges and potentially harm their social environment in college. AP Classes offer a chance to explore rigorous courses and potentially earn college credit, with no potential harm to a student’s future. 

Ultimately, the decision between AP classes and dual enrollment courses is entirely up to the student and what they feel is best for themeself. They’re both great options, and I’m considering dual enrollment myself for next year. But AP’s accessibility, national relevance, affordability, and post-high school options all make AP classes tough to beat.

Durham Tech: Challenging but Worthwhile

By: Sadie Allen

When I took my first Advanced Placement (AP) class online my freshman year, it was challenging. 

From the excessive reading notes to the practice free response questions (FRQs) I did not like the way the class was taught. It felt like we were constantly preparing for a test instead of focusing on understanding the content. 

When it was time to take the final exam for the class, my teacher explained how it would work: to earn college credit for the class, students would need to score a three or above and after that, it was the college’s decision whether or not they would accept that credit. 

I was confused. Why am I working so hard in such a challenging college course if I am not guaranteed the credit? 

After I took the exam I started exploring other options. I still wanted to challenge myself with advanced classes, but I wanted to make sure I would be awarded with appropriate credit. In the second half of the fall semester of my sophomore year I found out about dual enrollment at Durham Technical Community College. I learned that I could take college courses while in high school for free. 

I met with Mr. Tevin Jones, Riverside’s college liaison, and learned that the classes students take through dual enrollment count towards their high school graduation requirements and college graduation requirements so long as they pass the class. The classes are also weighted as an AP class on your transcript. It is almost like taking an AP class but with guaranteed college credit, regardless of the final exam. 

After that meeting, I knew my plan. There were too many pros to doing dual enrollment over AP classes, like earning double credit for one class, flexibility, and a GPA boost, for me to pass up. 

At the time I am writing this, I have completed one semester with Durham Tech. I took three classes at Riverside and three classes with Durham Tech last fall. I had the opportunity to take all three of the Durham Tech classes online, completely asynchronously, which allowed me to take more classes at one time.

All the Durham Tech classes both counted towards my high school graduation requirements and college credits. I got my fourth math out of the way, a social studies credit, and an English credit. And they were weighted as an AP class, meaning my GPA got a great boost, too. 

I also take AP classes at Riverside, and if I had to compare the difficulty of AP classes and dual enrollment classes, I would say dual enrollment classes are harder, but the workload is less. Because the focus of most AP classes is the final exam, students spend a lot of time doing free response questions (FRQs), document based questions (DBQs), multiple choice questions (MCQs), and other things you’ll find on the AP exam. With dual enrollment classes, you learn similar things, but focus more on understanding the material rather than preparing for a test. 

Overall, dual enrollment classes are just better. They offer a challenge for students ready to try college-level coursework, are paid for by DPS, and don’t attach college credit to a test score alone. 

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