The significant growth over the past two decades in the number of low-income students participating and succeeding in AP has been driven in large part by federal funding.
The College Board provides fee reductions for AP Exams taken by low-income students. And since 1998, the federal government has also provided dedicated funding to offset the cost of AP Exams for low-income students under a Title I program called the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program (APTFP). In 1999, the second year of APTFP, over 45,000 low-income students used federal funding to help cover the cost of AP Exams. In 2016, more than 450,000 did.
Number of Low-Income AP Takers, by Annual Exam Administration
This chart shows low-income AP Exam takers from both public and private schools by exam administration, not by graduating class.
Accessing Federal Funds for AP Exam Fees Under ESSA
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which goes into effect in 2017, eliminates APTFP. That doesn’t mean federal funding for AP Exams for low-income students will disappear. It means the process of accessing the funds will change.
Starting with the May 2017 AP Exams, federal funding will be distributed to states through one block grant: ESSA Title IV, Part A.
States Taking Action
Several states have already made changes in reaction to the changes to federal funding.
In November 2016, the Texas Education Agency announced that in addition to the $30 state subsidy it provides to fund each AP Exam taken by low-income students, it will use its ESSA Title IV-A federal funds to maintain fee assistance for over 200,000 Texas students. The Texas Education Agency is currently working with districts and state charter schools to create a cost-sharing strategy for future funding of AP Exams taken by low-income students.
Declaring that “all students should have equal access to the benefit of Advanced Placement,” Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt announced in December 2016 that his department would use state funds to cover the loss of dedicated federal funding for low-income students’ AP Exams. The Kentucky Department of Education stated it was making this commitment so that “schools will continue to provide Kentucky’s [low-income] students with the opportunity to take rigorous AP courses that prepare them to excel in their future college and career choices.”