College credit programs for high school students

Online Reporter Elissa Blankenship compares the Running Start program to AP classes. Which one should high school students take?

Earning a college degree is possible in high school within the Running Start program, and similarly students can earn college credit through exams for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

In 1955, College Board took over the administration of the original 1952 pilot AP program, which now provides 38 courses to students. The scores on exams for these courses determine if college credit can be assigned to a student’s completion of a course.

The Running Start program allows high school students to attend classes in various colleges state-wide, waiving the initial cost of tuition, minus its fees and the cost of course materials. Students also have the choice of utilizing the program full-time or part-time.

These programs provide college credit for classes, teach students to work on a college level and provide required credits for high school graduation among other commodities. Pierce College is one of the many colleges in Washington state that accepts both programs.

Running start student Elizabeth Russell prefers to take college courses at the college over taking  an AP course in high school. Picture Credit Elissa Blankenship

“I prefer the college over AP classes,” said Elizabeth Russell.

Russell is a running start student at Pierce College. She also mentioned that she prefers the time flexibility and the ability to choose professors over the amount of work that AP classes would require. 

Staying connected with high school counselors and college advisors is part of the responsibility of a running start student. In addition, a student must be a junior or senior in high school to apply.

Other responsibilities include meeting academic requirements, specifically a student’s eligibility to be placed in English 101 and maintaining a GPA of 2.5 or above. Most colleges in Washington state accept credits via the Running Start program.

Similarly, most colleges support AP credits, though finding out the specifics of policies regarding the colleges they wish to attend is a responsibility of an AP student. Scores of three or above are awarded college credit for AP exams, and there are textbooks which help prepare students for the format of these exams.

The cost of AP exams and materials is another factor that can be weighed against the fees and material costs of attending college as a running start student.

Obtaining college credit in a high school setting is possible, however some students say they enjoy the sense of freedom. To put this into perspective, Running Start allows students to take up to 15 college credits (3 classes approximately) with waived tuition per quarter in comparison to six (0.5-1.0 credit each) high school classes year long.

Overall the learning experiences and classroom setting provided vary, but the outcomes of earning college credit are similar. Balancing one program over another for the purpose of pursuing a higher education is based off of personal preference.


The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Elissa Blankenship

College credit programs for high school students

by Elissa Blankenship time to read: 2 min