A federal program that reimburses Advanced Placement testing fees for low-income students has expanded significantly in Alaska in recent years.
Data from the test administrator and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development shows low income students are taking an average of 45 more exams each year since 2007.
In early August the state received $16,700 to continue funding the expanding program for the 2012-13 school year.
The 11-year-old awarded more than $21.5 million to 43 states this year to cover fees associated with taking the end of the year AP exams enabling high school students to get college credit for certain coursework.
Shari Paul, program coordinator for Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development said program funding was supposed to be cut on the federal level but was reinstated at the last minute.
While Alaska’s share of the award is relatively small when compared to other states — Texas received more than $2 million — the amount is based on the approximate number of students who would qualify for the fee reduction.
The state paid for 286 exams during the 2011-12 school year, Paul said.
“We’re pretty much on target,” she said. “We’ve actually been able to pay every year, the full amount.”
Last year, 157 students from nine schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District took a total of 222 AP exams according to data provided by the district.
However, Paul said every high school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District took advantage of the low income grant program.
The total number of low-income students on the Kenai Peninsula who took advantage of the program was not available.
In 2009, 106 low-income students took advantage of the program across the state. Since then usage has increased by 48 percent. An estimated 175 low-income students will take AP tests at the end of this school year.
Each exam costs $87 to take, however through service-fee waivers from high schools combined with a waiver from College Board —the company that administers the test— the state only pays up to $53 per exam.
AP students who qualify for the state’s free and reduced lunch program are considered low-income under the state’s guidelines, Paul said.
Although the application process is fairly simple, Paul said only 26 of the nearly 295 high schools in the state requested reimbursement for low-income student’s AP testing fees last year.
“Some school districts just pay for it out of their slush fund,” she said. “The Juneau school district, they’ve never requested reimbursement. My personal goal is to continue to spread the word about the program.”
Paul said she also works on the Alaska Performance Scholarship Program and students can use AP courses to help qualify for the scholarship.
“There are funds out there to give all low-income students the opportunity to take these exams and it’s great for college, great for career tech programs, so people shouldn’t shy away from taking AP courses,” she said.