AP Access Fund | Background

| AP ACCESS FUND 2017 |

The Challenge

Changes to a provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) this past year ended federal funding for a critical grant program that helps subsidize the cost of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams for students from low-income families. Without that federal funding the cost to families has risen substantially, leaving many students unable to afford to take the exams. In response, the 41 states impacted by this change have been scrambling to continue subsidizing these exams, and many have found ways to continue to cover the cost for students, but Washington state, which is already finding it difficult to adequately fund its education system, has no funds to continue the subsidization. Students registering for exams this year will see their test fees rise from $15 for AP and IB to $53 for AP and $116 for IB. Students wishing to take the IB exams will also have to pay an additional $168 in registration fees. These costs are prohibitively high for low-income students, and many will be forced to elect not to take the exams.

The Impact

Data and common sense tell us that low-income students who don’t receive subsidized exam fees will opt not to take the tests. The College Board, the organization that administers Advanced Placement exams, reports that “As a result of federal funding, the number of AP Exams taken by low-income students in Washington has grown from approximately 420 in 1998, the year before the federal program began, to approximately 14,500 in 2015.”

AP and IB scores play a critical role in a student’s college applications. If a student is unable to take these exams, they miss an important opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and achievement that would distinguish them from their fellow applicants. Furthermore, for low-income students, there is an added financial hit inherent in being unable to take AP exams. Thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars of potential tuition savings that AP-earned credits offer are lost if a student is unable to take the exam. When low-income students, many of whom will receive state-funded financial aid, have to stay in college or university longer because they enrolled with fewer credits, both the student and the state suffer a greater financial burden than if exams were subsidized upfront. The College Board reports that in 2015 the college tuition savings attributable to AP exams taken by low-income students in Washington who received federal funding and received a score of 3 (passing) or higher was $5.8 million.

The Numbers

Advanced Placement 2016:
AP federal test fee program paid for 13,709 exams – OSPI did this through a contract with the College Board. AP exams cost $92 in 2016; $83 for the exam, plus $9 charged by the school to cover the cost of proctors. Of that, for low-income students the College Board waived $30 of the fee; each local school waived $9 of the fee; OSPI paid $38 per exam, leaving the student to pay $15 per exam.

Advanced Placement 2017:
There is no funding for the AP federal test fee program. AP exams will cost $93 each. The College Board will waive $31; each local school will waive $9, leaving the student to pay $53.
International Baccalaureate 2016:
AP federal test fee program paid for 1,017 exams – OSPI did this through reimbursements to schools in iGrants. IB exams cost $113 each. International Baccalaureate does not waive any part of the fee. OSPI paid $98 per exam, leaving the student to pay $15 per exam.
International Baccalaureate 2017:
There is no funding for the IB exams in the federal test fee program. IB exams will cost $116 each. Registration fees are $168 per student.

Breakdown

To ensure low-income students don’t face a rise in test exam fees in 2017, the state will need to raise and allocate between $800,000 and $1,000,000.

Advanced Placement
The College Board projects that 15,900 Advanced Placement Exams will be taken by low-income students in 2017. Based on those projections;
– $604,200 is needed to cover exams fees at the current subsidized rate of $15 per test
– $842,700 is needed to fully subsidize exam fees for low-income students

International Baccalaureate
Using 2016 data, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction estimates that;
– $102,717 is needed to cover exam fees at the current subsidized rate of $15 per test
– $117,972 is needed to full subsidize exam fees for low-income students
– $170,859 is needed to fully subsidize registration fees

Strategy

Needs for these funds are immediate. Students have to register for AP and IB tests by March 7th—with students with disabilities needing to register earlier to request accommodations—and so cannot wait for potential funding solutions that could be passed by the Washington State Legislature in this year’s budget, or for a funding fix at the federal level.

To address this issue, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, in coordination with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the College Success Foundation, has facilitated the creation of an emergency public fund, henceforth known as the AP Access Fund—managed by, and under the purview of, OSPI—unto which members of the private sector—educational organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals can donate funds for the specific purpose of subsidizing AP and IB exam fees for low-income students in 2017.

Furthermore, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor is pursuing a legislative fix to be introduced during the 2017 legislative session requiring the state to maintain this account using federal funds from the Title IV block grant to ensure future students’ opportunities are not jeopardized by similar funding cuts.