Atlanta Public Schools will cover about 75 percent of AP Exam fees for the 2021-2022 school year, significantly lowering the cost of exams for students. The subsidies follow the expiration of APS’s participation in the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).
In 2017, Midtown implemented the NMSI College Readiness Program. In addition to providing teacher training and study support for students, the program significantly subsidized the price of AP exams for math, science, literature, language and social studies.
“NMSI gave so much money,” AP Coordinator and Assistant Principal Willie Vincent said. “Kids could take four exams and pay around $50 in the past. Midtown’s kids have not known for the past four years what the full price of exams have been.”
That grant money expired after the 2020-2021 school year. The costs of AP exams for the 2021-2022 school year are $96 each and $144 for AP Seminar and AP Research. When families first received an invoice for the exams they had expressed interest in taking, students and administrators were not clear whether Midtown would receive any subsidies for this year’s exams.
“Under previous administrations, the district has supplemented exams; the College Board made the due date for exam fees Nov. 15; so, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Assistant Principal Tekeshia Hollis said. “This is the district’s first full year operating under that deadline; so, it’s all new to everybody.”
During the original uncertainty of whether or not APS would grant AP exam fee money, Vincent decided to charge families at the full price before potentially incurring late fees.
“We could either hold out, hoping for additional funding and then incur thousands of dollars in late fees, or we could just bite the bullet, let everyone pay on the front end, which is what we did,” Vincent said.
However, in late October, , APS announced that the first exam will be free, and each subsequent exam will cost $24, which is exactly 75 percent of the original $96 fee. For students eligible for a fee reduction, each exam costs $6 and $11 for AP Seminar and AP Research.
“Atlanta Public Schools is offering to help families defray the costs of 2021-2022 Advanced Placement (AP) exam fees using Fiscal Year 2021 general funds,” according to The Advanced Placement Exam Fees Agreement for 2021-2022. “Funding of AP exam fees is an annual decision, and funding in future years is not guaranteed.”
The APS finance department did not respond to a request for comment.
Now Vincent is in the process of refunding families who already paid their full priced exam fees.
Junior Jonas Loesel is taking seven AP classes, but was planning on taking exams for five of those classes before the reduced price was announced.
“I am very relieved,” Loesel said. “I otherwise would not have taken the exams for the classes I take, which would have been frustrating given the work I’ve put into them.”
Senior Milan Ziegler is currently taking three AP courses. Before the exams were subsidized, Ziegler was not planning on taking any of the three exams for her classes.
“I felt like the cost was too much to be paying for each exam and I feel like it isn’t worth it,” Ziegler said. “If I didn’t do well on it this year it’s just like losing all that money for no reason.”
However, now that prices are lower, Ziegler does plan on registering for exams.
“I will probably take my AP Psychology exam, and maybe the AP Environmental Science one too,” Ziegler said.
The possibility for further financial aid remains. The state government has subsidized AP exams in the past, but according to Hollis, that determination will be made during the fiscal year of 2022, which is not in time for the Nov. 15 deadline.
The Georgia Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.
AP Biology teacher Nikolai Curtis said the biggest benefit to taking AP Exams is the potential to receive college credit for classes.
“I had a student a few years ago who got a four on the exam and she got eight credit hours,” Curtis said. “She was a theatre major and she got her science classes out of the way. If kids can’t take exams, they can’t get those credit hours done ahead of time. That is why it’s important that these exams are affordable.”