Forward thinking: The Blanchard Scholarship Fund and the value of AP courses
By Amber Leifheit
Marshfield Area Community Foundation Executive Director
Derek Blanchard saw a way to help his hometown community. He created the Blanchard AP Scholarship Fund at the Marshfield Area Community Foundation. He established this fund to help students who do not take Advanced Placement (AP) classes or the tests because they could not afford to pay for the exams. Other Marshfield High School (MHS) alumni joined in and contributed to this fund. They saw the value of AP classes and wanted to help current students.
What are AP classes, and why are they important? AP classes provide college-level studies for high school students. At the end of the school year, students take a rigorous exam. If students score a 3, 4, or 5, they pass. In turn many colleges provide credit, advanced standing, or both.
This year 430 MHS students completed 1,044 AP tests with a 76.6 percent pass rate. Tests were given for 27 different subject areas, including US history, English literature, computer science, calculus, biology, chemistry, Spanish, statistics, art history, and music theory. This year 22 students took advantage of the Blanchard scholarship opportunity. The Blanchard fund supported $1,900 in test fees, which translated to about $19,000 saved in college tuition.
There are many other reasons to take an AP class other than saving money on tuition. AP classes allow access to introductory college level material in a smaller environment with more direct instruction. For example, a traditional Introduction to Psychology class at a university may have 100 or more students. AP Psychology at MHS would have a class of 25-50 and be delivered with almost double the amount of instructional time.
Even if students do not score a 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam, they are exposed to the curriculum and expectations of a college course, which improves their readiness to take such classes. According to the College Board, most students take five or six years and sometimes even longer to earn their bachelor’s degree at public colleges and universities. Students who take AP courses and exams are much more likely to graduate in four years.
AP students also have the flexibility to double major, pursue additional minors, or study abroad without putting at risk graduation in four years. How universities award credit to students differs from university to university.
The AP program at MHS has open access. This means that any student can take an AP course. Teachers encourage students to try AP courses to build confidence and study skills as they prepare for college and future careers. MHS encourages all students to try a variety of courses that will interest, challenge, and prepare them. Finding a balanced schedule that incorporates a wide variety of the courses offered at the high school is key.
The Blanchard Scholarship Fund did help students in many ways, some they will not even recognize until they are in college and are able to see the results firsthand. One person with an idea to help in his hometown, that is how many things can be made better. Thank you, Derek Blanchard.
If you would like to help with this project, please send your tax-deductible donation to Marshfield Area Community Foundation at P.O. Box 456, Marshfield, WI 54449.