Updated on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lt. Governor Spearheads Emergency Education Funding Stopgap
Federal budget constraints put AP tests out of reach for low-income students
Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib on Wednesday announced that his office will be leading a coalition that includes Washington businesses, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and education nonprofit the College Success Foundation to raise $800,000 to help the state cover the cost of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exam fees, which range from $53 to $116 per test, for low-income students in Washington state. The timeline to raise the funding is extremely short, given the March 7 deadline for students to sign up for AP exams.
The Boeing Company, Microsoft, the Schultz Family Foundation, Alaska Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, and Nordstrom have each made early commitments to help launch the initiative, pledging a combined $375,000.
“My office is focused on expanding opportunities for all students so they will be fully prepared for college and career success,” said Habib. “These are truly deserving kids. My office, the Office of the Superintendent, and our partners find it unacceptable for money to be a barrier to educational success.”
“The AP Access Fund Initiative will compensate for the expected loss this year,” said Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “The partnership between the Office of Lt. Governor and OSPI, as well as the money already given by Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Nordstrom shows that by working together, we in Washington state can solve problems and help our disadvantaged students.”
“Test fees, which can be especially challenging for low-income families, should not stop students from realizing the full benefits of advanced placement courses,” said Mary Snapp, Corporate Vice President and head of Microsoft Philanthropies. “We’re proud to support this fund, and the students it supports, and ask that lawmakers in both Washington state and Washington, DC, quickly find a permanent, equitable solution.”
The Lt. Governor spearheaded the initiative immediately after learning about changes to a federal grant program called the “Advanced Placement Test Fee Program” that has issued federal funding to 41 states, including Washington, since 1999. The program subsidized the high cost of AP exams for students on free and reduced lunch.
With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) this past year, which consolidated dozens of federal programs, the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program was moved from Title I into a block grant in Title IV—the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants— for which Congress failed to appropriate full funding in time for the 2017 academic year.
News that federal dollars would not be available for this year’s crop of test takers has prompted a scramble by states to find the funding necessary for subsidizing exam fees. Washington state, already mired in an education funding crisis, has no extra resources to cover test fees, leaving many students unsure as to how they will afford their exams.
Along with providing funds to cover this year’s funding gap through the charitable, tax-exempt initiative, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and OSPI have secured bipartisan support within the legislature for a policy fix that would mandate the state reserve a portion of forthcoming federal block grant funds to fully subsidize advanced placement test fees for low-income students in the future.
“My office is committed to making this a one-off deal,” said Lieutenant Governor Habib. “Ultimately, this is something our state needs to guarantee going forward.”
AP exams are offered in seven areas: Capstone, the Arts, English, History and Social Science, Math and Computer Science, Sciences, and World Languages and Cultures. Students most often receive college credit for a course with a score of a 3 or higher on an AP exam.
According to the College Board, the number of AP Exams taken by low-income students in Washington grew from approximately 420 in 1998, the year before the federal subsidization program began, to approximately 14,500 in 2015. The potential college tuition savings attributable to AP Exams taken by low-income students in Washington who received federal funding in 2015 and scored a 3 or higher is $5.8 million.
Keeley Smith, Communications Director