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28.4 Million Grant for Low Income Students’ Exam Fees

Sammie Chen_APTests
Staff Writers

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would grant a combined $28.4 million to 40 different states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands to assist with the cost of Advanced Placement Exam (AP) fees for low-income public high school students.

The Advanced Placement Test Fee (APTF) program helps outline and describe the criteria, cost and contribution for AP Exam fees and is administered by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The purpose of this grant is to boost college and career readiness for students who may not be financially stable. The grant is designed to increase the number of low-income students who plan to take the AP test to obtain college credit for high school courses, and reduce the time and cost needed to complete a postsecondary degree.

“The Grant only encourages low income students to participate more in AP testing. The price for other students without financial aid is going up. Even for those who can afford it, no one wants to pay $91 for a test. In a way, it discourages the people on the other side of the spectrum from testing.” Junior Agatha Handojo said.

Approximately 769,000 AP tests were taken nationally in 2014, a 6% increase from 2013. According to the College Board, 28% of the people who took the AP test in the year of 2013 were low-income students.

The funding for each state will be determined by an estimation of the number of students who are expected to take the test. California received about one-third of the entire grant, receiving $10.7 million for the spring of 2014 and 2015 exams as stated by the U.S. Department of Education.

“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,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, according to the U.S. Department of Education. “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.”

According to the College Board, an AP exam costs $91 without any financial aid or a fee waiver while schools retain a $9 rebate per exam taken. The grant will cover all the fees but $18. The states are then to determine whether students pay this amount themselves or to cover it in the state’s budget. Individual schools may also be subject to raise the price of the test in order to cover proctoring and administration costs.
“I think that because of this grant, people will be more willing to take AP tests due to the reduced price and its availability. It’ll be easier on them and their families who may have had problems before with paying for AP tests,” sophomore Vicky Lam said.

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington, students will be eligible for the APTF program if they qualify for one of the following programs: free lunch program, the reduced lunch program, the social security program and the Medicaid program. One may still be eligible for the APTF program if a parent or guardian certifies that the student’s family taxable income does not exceed the 2013 Annual Low-Income Levels. If this method is used, the Low-Income Student Verification Form 1616 should be signed to offset the cost of AP testing. The student will need to be enrolled in an AP class and plan to take the AP test.

There have been similar grants like this one according to the U.S. Department of Education. In the year of 2013, a grant of more than $28.8 million have been awarded to 42 states. While in the year of 2012, a grant of more than $21.5 million had been awarded to 43 states. Both of the grant were also for the purpose of lowering AP test fees.
The fees will only cover approved AP tests administered by the College Board (AP), the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB) and Cambridge International Examinations (CI). The Secretary of Education may also approve other advanced placement tests.

“We know that students who succeed in Advanced Placement courses in high school are also more likely to succeed in college,” Vice President of Communications for the College Board John McGrath said in a press release by the Wall Street Journal. “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.”

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