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AP Funding for Low-Income Students

In 2017, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) eliminated a federal program that dedicated funds to offset the cost of AP Exams for low-income students.

The funds previously set aside for AP are now consolidated with funds for 40 other educational programs as part of the Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants block grant program.

States and districts can apply funds from the block grant to cover part or all of the cost of AP Exams for low-income students. In addition, states can use other federal, state, or local funds to help low-income students pay for AP Exams.

Protecting low-income AP access through exam funding

AP data for 2017 show that in states partially or fully committed to funding AP Exams for low-income students, a higher percentage of those students took AP Exams.

AP Exam participation rates for low-income students grew faster in these states than in states that didn’t pay for AP Exams. States that funded exams saw a 7% increase in participation, compared to a 4% increase in states that didn’t fund exams.

States providing funding also saw low-income student AP participation grow faster than overall student participation. This effectively helps narrow equity gaps, which is directly tied to our commitment to giving all students access to the benefits of challenging, college-level coursework.

Conversely, states that didn’t contribute any funding for AP saw participation among low-income students grow at a slower rate than overall student participation, exacerbating the equity gaps.

To help subsidize the cost of funding AP Exams for low-income students, states and districts can draw on several sources:

  • State funds: A number of states cover the costs of their students’ AP Exams by using local funds. For example, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina cover the cost of AP Exams for all their students using state funds. Others use state funds to pay for a specific subset of exams, such as exams taken by low-income students, or exams taken in specific disciplines, like STEM.

  • Federal funds: States and districts can use federal funds under the new Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program to cover part or all of the cost of AP Exams for low-income students. They can also use Title I, Part A funds to cover AP Exam fees for these students.

  • The College Board: Over the past 5 years, the College Board has provided more than $144 million in AP Exam fee reductions to low-income students.