Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes

Kathryn FlynnBy Kathryn Flynn | 

Dual enrollment and Advanced Placement (AP) classes both offer an opportunity for high school students to earn college credit while in high school. Students who earn college credits in high school can save money on total college costs and may be able to graduate and enter the workforce sooner.

Like honors classes, most high schools weigh dual enrollment classes and AP classes higher than regular high school classes when calculating GPA. AP classes are scored on a five-point scale rather than the traditional four-point scale, allowing AP students to earn a GPA above 4.0.

However, there are some key differences between AP and dual enrollment classes, such as how college credit is earned and the availability and cost of classes.

Earning college credit

Dual enrollment classes typically replace a high school class, and dual enrollment grades are included on a student’s official high school and college transcripts. Students may earn college credit if they pass a dual enrollment class with a grade of C or better.

The AP program, created by the College Board, offers college-level courses for high school students. AP classes prepare students for an AP exam. If the student scores high enough on the AP exam, they may qualify for college credit or have the opportunity to take advanced courses as a college freshman.

However, there is no guarantee that a college will accept AP credit or dual enrollment credit. Some colleges will accept AP credit or dual enrollment credit, but the credit will not count toward the student’s degree or replace prerequisites for advanced classes. Students should meet with their school’s guidance counselor before enrolling in a dual enrollment class or AP class.

Requirements of dual enrollment and AP classes

Dual enrollment requirements may be determined by the student’s state and their high school. In most cases, a student must be a junior or senior and maintain a minimum GPA to enroll in a dual enrollment course.

AP requirements are determined by a student’s high school. Some high schools require students to pass a prerequisite course or pass a placement test before taking an AP class.


Availability of classes

A student may take dual enrollment classes at their high school, a local community college or online. Each high school district offers different types of dual enrollment classes, but many include introductory college course work in subjects like Humanities, English, Math, Social Studies and Science.

There are currently over 30 AP courses available, in Arts, English, History and Social Studies, Math and Computer Science, Sciences and World Languages and Culture. If an AP class is not available at a student’s high school, the student may be able to take the AP class at a neighboring high school. AP classes can also be taken online through an authorized online provider.

Students may take an AP exam without taking the corresponding AP course. If the AP exam is offered at the student’s high school, the student must speak with the school’s AP coordinator to order testing materials, collect fees and get information on taking the exam. If the student’s high school does not offer an AP exam the student may be able to take the exam at a neighboring high school.

Costs of dual enrollment and AP classes

Dual enrollment prices range from $0 to $400. These costs are generally covered by the student’s family, their high school or their state. Students may use a 529 plan to pay for dual enrollment tuition, but costs of books and other supplies needed for a dual enrollment class are not qualified 529 plan expenses.

There is no charge to take an AP class, however students must pay a $94 fee to take an AP exam. Students may also purchase study materials and will be charged an additional $40 fee for late or cancelled exams.

Students may not use a 529 plan to pay for college application and testing fees, including AP test fees. AP test fees do not count as a qualified higher education expense, in part because they occur prior to admission and are not required for enrollment or attendance. AP test fees do not count as a qualified K-12 expense, since such expenses are currently limited to K-12 tuition. Tuition is money paid for teaching or instruction at an educational institution, and does not include testing fees.