New Grant to Cover AP Testing Fees for Low-Income Students

A federal government is offering grants totaling $28.4 million to 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, in an effort to offset costs associated with offering Advanced Placement tests taken by low-income students.

“High-school instruction needs to become more rigorous to foster college and career-readiness and provide multiple pathways to success to prepare students for the 21st century global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a news release. “Advanced Placement courses are helping schools meet this challenge by developing the study skills, critical reasoning and habits of mind that prepare students for college.”

The grants would help to pay for Advanced Placement tests taken by low-income students, encouraging them to take the tests needed to obtain college credit for high school courses, reducing the costs associated with higher education and allowing a higher number of low-income students to gain a post-secondary degree.

“We know that students who succeed in Advanced Placement courses in high school are also more likely to succeed in college,” said John McGrath, vice president of communications for the College Board, on Tuesday. “Fee waivers play an essential role in making these courses accessible for low-income students, and help pave the way for increased opportunities as they transition to college and career.”

Qualifying exams include those by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations.

Funding for each state is determined by an estimate of the number of students expected to take the exams.  From 2013 to 2014, that number increased by 6% to cover 769,000 tests nationally.  California took one-third of the entire grant, receiving $10.7 million for spring 2014 and some of the spring 2015 exams.

The grant will cover all but $18 of the testing costs for each student.  States will need to determine whether they want students to cover this additional cost themselves or cover it in the state’s budget.

“We know that is still a problem,” said Deb Delisle, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, in a conference call Tuesday. She said states and local communities handle the leftover costs in different ways. “The department will continue to advocate for increases in the budget to cover the costs.  We would hope we could lower that $18 because it is a burden.”

However, as Robert Rothman, a senior fellow with the Alliance for Excellent Education expressed, costs are not the only factor keeping low-income students from taking the exams.  These students are often times more likely to attend schools where Advanced Placement classes are not offered, writes Caroline Porter for The Wall Street Journal.

According to the College Board, 11% of students who took the advanced placement tests in 2003 were low-income.  That number has increased to 28% as of 2013.