Federal Budget Cuts Jeopardize Access to Placement Tests

Cuts made by Congress to the Federal budget could make the fees for Advanced Placement (AP) exams unaffordable to thousands of low-income students across the country. The AP exams give students the opportunity to test out of lower-level university classes, which could save them thousands of dollars in tuition. But because of the cuts, an estimated 29,000 fewer students will take the exams, according to The New York Times.

The cuts were part of a budget agreement passed in December. This cut $16 million, going from $43 million the previous year to $27 million now, from programs that provide financing for advanced high school courses. According to the NY Times, before the new budget was passed, low-income students were eligible for waivers for the test fees. But now, they’ll have to pay $15 for each of the first three exams and $53 for each exam after that. The regular fee for an AP exam is $87.

There are 34 exams — including calculus, English language and composition, human geography, physics, and psychology — available to students. In addition, it’s common for students to take more than one AP exam, but the increase in fees means fewer low-income students are taking multiple exams, which may lead to a decrease of 47,000 exams taken, Trevor Packer, College Board advanced placement vice president, said to the NY Times.

Luis Toro, advanced placement coordinator at Classical High School in Providence, R.I., told the NY Times that some of his school’s students who had planned to take four or five AP exams had to cut back to three.

"Just this morning, I had a girl tell me, ‘Mr. Toro, I’ve chosen my three APs,’ and I told her I’d order those three, and we’ll try find a way to pay for the others," Toro said. "I’m getting calls from parents who don’t understand. I explain that it’s not a school issue, it’s not a district issue, it’s a Washington issue."

Packer said that some states and school districts will take on the additional fees in their own budgets so that students won’t see a significant increase in cost. For example, low-income students in Texas will pay $9 per exam for the first three exams and then $23 any additional ones after that. Meanwhile, Minnesota will cover all of the fees for students who qualify for the College Board’s fee reduction policy, and the state will reimburse $50 per exam for students who do not qualify. To see what your state’s AP exam reimbursement policy is, click here.

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