AP waivers restored — and numbers of students taking tests rise

Eric Benitez, Staff Writer

With the AP fee exam funding restored this year, students need only worry about one thing: passing the test. The fee waiver was restored as a result of Lodi Unified setting aside district funding.

Students who want to take multiple AP exams end up paying hundreds of dollars, as each exam fee is $94. However, students on the free or reduced lunch program qualify for a fee waiver that reduces the cost of each exam to $5.

Originally, the grants for the AP fee waiver came from a federal Title I program called Advanced Placement Test Fee Program. In 2017, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) eliminated the program, along with 40 other educational programs, and funding for all the programs — including the AP funding — was merged into one program, a Title IV Part A block grant.

Students with free or reduced lunch qualified for the College Board waiver, which reduced the price of each exam to $64 — still a hefty price for those paying for several exams. The College Board calculates applicable students based on household size and family income.

Students may take AP exams to gauge how well they understood the course, but most are motivated by the opportunity to earn college credit. Additionally, students who qualify for the fee waiver may use the $5 cost to their advantage. With the fee being lowered back to $5, some students figure they might as well take as many exams as possible — even those in subjects they haven’t taken in school.

“I didn’t qualify for the fee waiver last year, but I do this year,” senior Kate Lagera said. She plans to take the AP Psychology exam in May, a topic for which she has no formal education. The psychology credit is a requirement for Lagera’s top college choice, so passing the AP Psychology test would save her money in the future.

She plans to study for the AP Psychology exam on her own by purchasing an AP review book for the course and studying the practice multiple-choice questions on the College Board website.

“My review book and the College Board are my only sources for studying the curriculum,” Lagera said. “I just study the topics over and over again until I learn them.”

Still, the vast majority of students don’t qualify for the fee waiver. These students’ families may not be able to afford the costs of all the AP tests their children want to take, even though their income disqualifies them from the fee waiver.

According to BCHS Secretary Nancy Figueroa, during the 2016-2017 school year — the first year without AP funding — only 120 tests were ordered for students with free and reduced lunch, a sharp decline from the 180 waived tests ordered during the 2015-2016 school year.

For the 2016-2017 school year, of the 182 students who signed up for AP testing, only 80 qualified for the AP fee reduction waiver. A total of 278 tests were taken that year.

This year, 255 students are taking AP tests. Out of the 255, 117 of the students qualify for the fee waiver. In total, 405 exams will be taken in May, an increase of 127 exams over last year.

The district currently has no policy in place to help students who must pay full price. The only option is for students to start fundraising as early as possible if they know they’re going to take multiple AP tests in May.