A disparity of opportunities amongst high schools in the United States 

Is it fair to punish financially disadvantaged students by not offering AP or AICE courses, when their peers in another state have better access to these opportunities? The bigger picture is that opportunities for students vary among high schools. Illustration by Steven Coleman/The Daily Campus.

Prior to graduating from Manchester High School in June 2022, I attended the graduation ceremony of my dear friends from my old high school, Eau Gallie, located in Melbourne, Florida. Watching my friends walk the stage brought back many memories we shared from kindergarten to high school prior to my moving. I was surprised when Principal Jeremy Salmon announced how not only a handful of students achieved the AICE diploma, but also an Associate of Arts degree alongside their high school diploma. Manchester High School also offers students a headstart to college as well, potentially saving students a semester or even a full year of college with their Advanced Placement courses — assuming students take as many AP classes as possible and pass all the AP exams with a score of a four or a five. However, there is a massive inequality in opportunity between these two schools alone. 

The AICE program, which is similar to students taking AP courses, allows students to potentially receive higher GPAs, higher class ranking and college credit — not to mention it looks great on college applications. The AICE program “qualifies for the highest level of the Bright Futures Scholarship. The Florida Academic Scholar Award gives students full tuition coverage at a Florida public university,” according to the Eau Gallie High School Guidance website. The AICE program, unlike AP courses, offers more students the opportunity to earn full financial assistance at a Florida university with that single scholarship. On top of that, students can also get an Associate of Arts degree while they are still in high school. 

Digging deeper first at Eau Gallie’s homepage and programs, I found no mention of the opportunity for students to obtain an A.A. alongside their high school diploma, yet the principal clearly acknowledges the students who earned it. After researching how to get an A.A. while in high school, no sources answered my question. All links mentioned only what an A.A. is and the benefits. After searching and seeking, the closest I could get to answering my question was “Grace College” having a “college launch program,” that states high school students that have a 3.0 GPA and pay the $8,000 program fee can take advantage of earning an A.A. before college. However, this simply cannot be the only means for students to earn an A.A. before college. 

If paying the $8,000 fee to Grace College is the only means a high school student can get an A.A., then there is also a massive inequality between public schools and religious ones such as Grace, which may just have an ulterior motive to spreading the Christian religion further. For students who are in financial need, an A.A. could spare them some years of college and tuition fees, but the cost of this program prevents some from benefitting from this offering. 

With this resource, any high school student could benefit greatly. However, with Eau Gallie’s commencement, students were acknowledged for also achieving an AA. In my high school, there was no mention whatsoever of any student earning this degree. 

Perhaps even Manchester High had this opportunity for students, but it was not announced as an opportunity nor as a recognition during the graduation ceremony. If that is the case, then Eau Gallie students are made aware of what opportunities are available, and Manchester High students just have to discover these opportunities on their own. 

Shifting focus, what about underfunded schools that offer no AP courses or college head-start programs at all? How do those students stand out to colleges? Is it fair to therefore punish financially disadvantaged students by not offering AP or AICE courses, when their peers in another state have better access to these opportunities? 

The bigger picture is that opportunities for students vary among high schools. Sure, the argument can then be, “Shouldn’t the student research which high school has what they are looking for?” But why should they? High school students who are minors do not have the resources needed to live on their own, and thus may be confined to their current location because of environmental or economic situations. To ensure each student has an equal chance of success, the same or similar programs should be offered across all high schools. High schools that are underfunded could receive monetary assistance through taxpayer dollars or donations. Whatever needs to be done to ensure every student has an equal chance to succeed and make the most of their resources is worth doing. 

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