In high school I was lucky enough to already know what I wanted to major in at university, and I was pretty sure about what university I would end up going to. I was also fortunate enough to go to a school with a lot of AP Credit, which made this much easier, but it is still very possible at many high schools… Of course, as the future-obsessed, Judging-type I am, I entirely planned out my high school schedule to maximize the amount of credit I could earn towards my college degree. My thought was: If I am going to have to take these classes already, why the hell should I take them again? Just so happens that I was able to bring in 64 degree-applicable credit hours (out of 128 needed for my degree). This has given me leeway to take interesting classes, a lightened load, double minors, and still graduate a year early. But that is not the interesting part of AP classes; today we are going to look at the economic advantages of AP credit for an average student..
Yes, you have to do a bit more work than the person next to you. But in today’s world you have to work harder and better than the person next to you in order to succeed. You won’t be rich if you don’t work hard. Period. Unless you win the lotto, but then you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Say you or your child or cousin is a high school Junior that chooses to work a bit harder than everyone else and signs up for the following AP classes:
- English Language and Composition AP (>=3)
- United States History AP (>=4)
- Psychology AP (>=4)
- English Literature and Composition AP (>=4)
- Physics B AP (or Biology or Chemistry) (>=3)
- Calculus AB AP (>=3)
- Macroeconomics AP (>=4)
- United States Government AP (>=3)
Each year you paid attention in class, studied, did test preparation, bought an AP Study book (which you read and practiced with), and took the AP tests you needed in May. You tried hard, got a little bit lucky on the grading, and made the minimum required scores for, say, the University of Texas to take your credit (those minimums are in the parenthesis).
Had you successfully followed this regimen, you would graduate high school with 32 hours at the University. Since these hours should all be applicable to (most) degrees (which is why you pick them based on your planned degree, duh), you would basically have just saved yourself a year of college.
No Tuition Paid Senior Year
This means you would have saved yourself 1x year of tuition, books, late-night energy drinks, and beer.. Since you probably borrowed against student loans to pay for this, the interest that you would have paid is also gone. So the $20,000 of expenses you would have incurred, which would have cost you about $200/month on a 3%, 10-year loan. So now instead of going to pay interest, your money gets to compound. Each month you take the $200 you would have spent on college loans and put it into a Roth IRA.
Extra Year Working
With the extra time you have in college you could work a part-time job (covering expenses), or you could graduate early. Say you had chosen to graduate a year early and start working. Let’s pretend you make the median household income with your degree ($54,000), and you lead a Mustachian lifestyle, spending only $20,000 that year. After taxes, you would be able to save around $25,000 that year, which you contributed to your 401k and Roth IRA.
If you could earn a 6.5% real rate of return with both the money you would have paid to student loans and the extra money you made from graduating early, you would have $460,000 in real dollars sitting in the retirement accounts by the age of 60. You could reasonably spend $18,405/year (4%) using this money from age 60 on.
The small amount of work you put in when you were 16 paid you off nearly a half a million real dollars by the time you were 60. Using the extra cash saved from not paying tuition and being able to work 1 year earlier, you were able to generate enough income in retirement to keep you out of absolute poverty. Most people don’t think about the massive opportunity costs of their decisions when they are young, and the ones who do are usually handsomely rewarded.