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States Win Federal Grants to Cover AP Tests for Low-Income Students

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $28.5 million to 40 states and the District of Columbia to help cover the cost of offering Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge exams to low-income students this upcoming spring.

The total in awarded grants, part of the department's Advanced Placement Test Fee program, is down slightly from last year, when $28.9 million was awarded to 42 states.

Last year, grants covered all but $10 of an AP exam's fee. This year, the federal money will cover all but $18, according to a department announcement on Tuesday. Because of changes in local and state subsidies, however, education department officials say the overall number of tests projected to be covered with these funds for exams in May 2015 will be up 5 to 10 percent.

Levels of funding per state were based on states' estimates of how many tests low-income students would be taking, according to the department. In 2013, the grants helped offset the cost of 720,573 exams—63,557 more than in 2012. In 2014, the grants defrayed the costs of 769,026 exams, 48,453 or 6 percent more exams than in 2013, the department reports.

The current cost to take an AP exam is $89. The College Board, which administers the AP exams, reduces the fee to about $53-$55 for students with financial need (using the same criteria as qualifying for free or reduced lunch, or about $24,000 annual income for a family of four).

Department officials said in a press call that states will decide how to cover the remaining cost: with other private or public funding, or by charging students.

The grant program, established in 1998, was expanded in recent years beyond AP to cover expenses associated with tests administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations that carry college credit for high school courses. The goal of the program is to encourage high school students to be exposed to the rigor of college-level work and earn college credit early.

The latest figures from College Board show that for students graduating in the Class of 2013, about 473,000 of the 2.2 million AP exam test takers were low-income students.

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