Obama administration subsidizes AP exam fees for low income students

The U.S. Department of Education will let states apply for grants to help their poor pay to take high school Advanced Placement tests Photo: Patrick Semansky ~ Associated Press

WASHINGTON, DC, August 7, 2012 — The cost of going to college is astronomical for many, and that cost is climbing. Getting high scores on the Advanced Placement (AP) exams taken taken by high-school seniors could reduce the time, and consequently the costs for students to complete college. Depending on AP scores, many colleges award successful test-takers college credits and exempt them from taking some required classes.  

But for low-income students, the cost of the exams — $89 per exam, with exams offered in a wide variety of academic subjects — can be a roadblock to getting that relief.

The Obama administration last week chipped away at that hurdle by announcing it is making available grants to states that can go towards subsidizing AP tests, allowing more low-income students to take the AP exams. 

On Wednesday, August 1, the US Department of Education announced that it will administer $21.5 million in grants to 43 states to cover all or part of the fees charged to low-income students for taking AP exams. Depending on the number of test-takers, grants may be enough to pay for up to the full cost of three exams per student. States may require test-takers to pay a portion of the cost, even if they receive a grant.

“Advanced Placement participation is an important element in creating a college-going culture in our high schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “AP courses help students develop the study skills, critical reasoning and habits of mind that prepare them for the transition to college. They give students — particularly first-generation college-goers — the confidence that they can successfully handle college-level work.”

High School students take the AP exams, administered by The College Board and the International Baccalaureate Organization, each May. The final grades on the exams determine whether a student will get college credit. Those who take and pass the tests with high-enough scores can graduate from college earlier and reduce the cost of their higher education.

But the road to AP isn’t easy.

High school students from low socioeconomic backgrounds face some academic disadvantages compared to more affluent students. They often do not have the same resources at school and come from homes where the parents have limited education themselves. They often have challenges raising enough money to take AP tests or to pay for tutors who can help them prepare to pass them.

A Department of Education report showed that American schools comprised primarily of minority students offer fewer advanced classes than those with affluent students.

A 2009 College Board report stated that over 15 percent of the three million students who graduated from public high schools in 2008 passed at least one AP exam, but that African-American students were still far less likely to have passed, or to even have taken, an AP exam than white, Hispanic or Asian students.  

Kudos to the Obama Administration for providing funds to remove one roadblock to advancement for low-income children.  

But now on to that pesky problem of making sure more low-income children are in schools that actually offer AP courses and are prepared to even take such courses when they’re available. 


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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