The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced today that, thanks to a public-private partnership initiated by Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, low-income students in Washington state will be able to take Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams for free this year.
Since 1999, a federal grant called the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program has provided funding for low-income students to take AP exams—which this year will cost $93 per test—at reduced rates. However, changes made during passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015 moved the federal program into a block grant, to which Congress then failed to appropriate funds in time for the 2017 test-takers.
Last month, Lt. Gov. Habib announced the creation of a coalition of private partners including Microsoft, The Boeing Company, and the Schultz Family Foundation. They, along with other individual, nonprofit, and corporate donors, committed emergency resources to help cover the loss of federal funds.
“Students shouldn’t have to face uncertainty when it comes to whether or not they can afford to take these exams,” said Habib. “Fundamentally, this is a question of equity in our education system, but it is also a wise and critical investment in our future. Students who take Advanced Placement exams are more likely to be accepted to college, and more likely to graduate on time because of the opportunity to earn college credits in high school. This is a smart program, and our success in securing this funding is a key demonstration of how government and the community can work together to find innovative ways to solve our state’s challenges.”
A combination of private funds raised by the Lt. Governor’s Office, along with one-time unspent federal and state money diverted to help fund the effort, will allow the program, which costs about $800,000 per year, to continue in 2017, ensuring no cost to low-income students. The College Success Foundation, a nonprofit organization with experience facilitating public-private partnerships for educational purposes, is managing the private funds.
“I’m thrilled that Lt. Gov. Habib, the College Success Foundation, and others have stepped up to ensure our low-income AP students will be able to afford to take these important exams this year,” said Superintendent Reykdal.
“Students should prepare to take their exams, knowing that financial assistance will be available for those who need it, and I’m hopeful that Congress or the Legislature will move forward with a permanent funding solution for the 2017-18 school year and beyond.”
The initiative has received praise for its swift and innovative response. Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President at the College Board, wrote in a Feb. 17 letter addressed to Habib:
“What you are doing is, frankly, unprecedented in state educational leadership; we have never yet seen a state leader rally private industry to contribute to students’ college readiness and affordability through a small, but incredibly meaningful way – reducing the cost of college credit exams like AP and IB.”According to data recently released from the College Board, of the seniors in the 2015-16 school year taking an AP exam, 25 percent received a low-income test fee subsidy.