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Advanced classes saving Waterloo Schools students many thousands in tuition

Advanced classes saving Waterloo Schools students many thousands in tuition


WATERLOO — Performance on exams for advanced classes during the past year is potentially helping Waterloo Community Schools’ students to reduce college tuition bills by tens of thousands of dollars.

A recent report presented to the Board of Education calculated a savings for students of $160,473 between International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement classes. The rigorous classes end with tests developed by the organizations. Students’ work is rated on a scale that some colleges and universities look at in determining if any of their courses should be waived.

“In the IB world we rank it on a seven-point scale. In the AP world, we measure it on a five-point scale,” Sherice Ortman, IB and advanced programming coordinator, told the board.

For IB classes, “75 of the 149 tests had a four or higher,” she said. For AP, 74 out of 243 tests had a three or higher. Scores at those levels are considered for equivalent classes at some colleges and universities.

“And so what that’s telling the university is you’ve definitely met that criteria for that course to transfer. You don’t have to sit for it in a college,” she explained.

“What I did was I took (the expense) out of the ... average tuition cost at the University of Iowa since most of our IB Diploma students (who graduated last spring) went to a state school this year,” said Ortman. It came to $80,775 for IB classes and $79,698 for AP classes.

Students who graduated in the spring with the International Baccalaureate Diploma after completing a two-year program of advanced courses reported $217,400 in scholarships, another factor in reducing college costs. That included students receiving $20,000 or more who told the district about their award by the time school ended last spring.

A total of 254 students in 10th- through 12th-grades, or 12%, took AP classes last year. Of the juniors and seniors, 76 of the students, or 6%, took IB classes. Seniors accounted for 29 of those, with 25 enrolled in the IB Diploma program.

But the largest slice of students took concurrent classes earning high school and Hawkeye Community College credit, which also has the potential to save on tuition. A total of 360 students in ninth- through 12th-grade, or 12%, took concurrent classes at the Waterloo Career Center, Elk Run Preschool, or East and West high schools.

Six juniors and seniors took University of Northern Iowa classes through the post-secondary enrollment options. All together, there were 696 high school students taking college courses through the various options during the last year.

The district also reduced costs paid to Hawkeye during the past year by $128,649 by having more of its own instructors teach the concurrent college courses.

“We were able to recover and keep about $120,000 last year by having our staff trained and teaching instead of outsourcing to a different campus,” said Ortman. “But it also made it open access so students don’t have to leave their home school if they don’t want to, and that was a big push.”

This fall, Ortman reported that 198 students are taking concurrent classes, 231 are taking AP classes and 95 are taking IB classes.

Of the 95 IB students, 45 are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The other 50 are enrolled in individual, or “singleton,” IB classes. But Ortman said in many cases, those students are still taking multiple IB classes.

“We pushed singletons quite a bit this year,” she said. “The tuition fee of $172 per student (which the district paid) was dropped. IB world organization was trying to make it more open access.”

More West High School than East High School students make up the 95 enrollments in International Baccalaureate classes. “About three-fourths of those would be West and a fourth would be East for the full diploma program as well as singletons,” said Ortman.


Related to this story

ACT scores declined for Waterloo Community Schools' class of 2019. Graduates who took the college entrance exam earned an average composite score of 20.2, 0.6 less than a year ago.

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