New AP fees threaten early college level exposure

Photo courtesy of Fort Myers High School

Photo courtesy of Fort Myers High School

Talya Lehrich

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Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the College Board will be adding new fees to AP tests. In addition to the $94 registration fee, students will be obligated to pay a $40 fee for any registration that occurs after November 15 and a $40 dollar fee for any test that a student signs up for but does not take. This misguided policy will only work to widen the achievement gap and discourage students from earning college credit.

Recent scandals in the college community have highlighted the extent to which money plays a role in the college process, which is essentially a positive feedback loop that benefits those with money and sets back those who are of a lower socioeconomic status. This exhibits itself in schools (private vs. public), test prep (those who can afford SAT/ACT tutoring often end up with higher scores and therefore have more scholarship and educational opportunities), access to college (those who can pay for college have access to a higher level of education), and now the College Board is enhancing their role in this loop.

Wilson students are fortunate to have all AP tests paid for by the district, however most public schools in the nation do not offer such benefits.

For some students, an AP credit is especially valuable because it means one less credit they will have to pay for in college. However, these same students may have trouble paying $94 upfront to take the test.

Furthermore, the credit is only granted for a certain score, so students under the new system are less inclined to take (and pay for) a test if they don’t think they will score high enough to earn the credit.  To compensate for this, a student may want to wait until closer to the test to assess their grasp on the material and weather or not a passing score would be feasible. By adding an extra fee for signing up late, these students are less likely to take that leap of faith. Similarly, if a student is not doing well in their AP course and wish to withdraw from the test it will still cost them $40.

The College Board argues that having all students signed up in the fall will allow previous tests and practice questions to be released to teachers. Such a mentality, however, furthers the “teaching to the test” model that inhibits student learning. Students should receive a holistic approach to a course, one that encourages critical thinking, opinions, and group work rather than specific material to help them pass a test.

That being said, passing the test can be monumental in a some students’ advancement of their higher level education, which is why adding fees will only limit student involvement in early college level course exposure.