AP exam fee waivers reduced

Sandra Sunio, Staff Writer

One of the challenges AP students face in their high school career involves the AP exam, and for some it’s not the test itself that proves most daunting — it’s paying for the exam. The AP Test Fee program that secured funds for low-income students has been eliminated this year due to — ironically — the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the state is not providing fee waivers.

The regular exam fee of $93 can pose a barrier to some students, especially those who take multiple AP exams.

“I only took the tests I knew I [would pass] for sure because $93 is a lot of money, and I didn’t want to have [the money] go to waste if I didn’t pass,” senior Edric Liong said. “I only took the ones I was confident in.”

Students whose tests are paid for by their parents say they feel reluctant to ask their parents for money for the exam.

“I didn’t want to burden them with such a large payment,” senior Leilany Lim said. “I definitely thought about only taking two or three [exams] at first, but my teachers encouraged [all] students to take the test.”

Last year, according to AP Central on CollegeBoard, under the AP Test Fee program, participating states granted $38 in federal funding toward each AP exam taken by a low-income student along with supplemental federal funding by some states for further reduction.

Bear Creek High School’s AP exam fee for low-income students (determined by the qualification for free or reduced lunch) was $5, and it put many of those students at ease knowing not much money would go to waste if they did not pass their exam.

Senior Benny Huynh qualifies for the reduced fee, and he says he was grateful all he had to pay was $5.

“I paid for three AP tests last year, and I didn’t have to beg my parents; $5 doesn’t dent a bank account,” Huynh said.

This year, the AP Exam fee for low-income students is $63.

Some teachers say they noticed some students took the reduced price for granted by not taking the test seriously.

“I really think that a lot of the students [who were paying the reduced fee] were just taking it because it was only $5,” AP Govt. and Human Geography teacher Kathy Scott said. “I think, sometimes, when you have to pay [a lot] for things, you have a tendency to take things more seriously.”

Some teachers say they are worried that students will opt out of taking the AP exam due to the increased fee.

“I’m afraid that there will be a lot of students that will not be able to take the test, and it concerns me, especially for my subject,” AP Spanish teacher Andres Gil said. “Last year, we had a 100 percent passing rate, and I’m sure this year can be the same, but some students might not afford the test, so they don’t take it even though they invest all that time in the class.”

Gil said he has already reached out to his cycling community and team, and he has already collected monetary donations. However, he still has to learn how he will allocate the money.

The $58 increase in AP exam fees may deter low-income AP students and potentially push them away from taking the test, thus preventing them from possibly earning college credit for course(s) they spent a whole year learning.

“If I were to tell my mom [about the price increase], she might say I shouldn’t take it or to take [only] one instead of two,” junior Angela Nguyen-Bernal said. “It decreases my chance of taking AP tests.”

For a number of universities, students can earn college credit if they score high enough on an AP exam. Spending $93 or $62 on an AP exam in high school instead of paying a larger amount for college classes may save students a lot of money.

According to Bright Hub staff writer Sylvia Cochran’s article “Calculating the Cost Per Credit Hour,” college credit hours at a public four-year college are approximately $253 each.

“Successful testing reduces the number of college credits the student must take and therefore also decrease the cost of education,” Cochran said.
According to counseling secretary Nancy Figueroa, in 2016, 99 students qualified for the reduced fee, and 120 students paid in full.

“We anticipate that fewer [low-income] students will be able to take the AP tests due to the higher cost,” Figueroa said.

This year, AP exam sign-ups are held from December 8 to March 3, 2017, to allow students to make monthly installments, but any tests not fully paid by March will not be ordered.