Advanced Placement (AP) classes and testing, though certainly flawed, have been a way for students to prove to prospective universities that they are willing and ready to take on college courses. However, effective August 1 of the 2019-20 school year, the College Board has implemented multiple changes to registration deadlines and fees. Now, rather than registering for May exams in March, the date has been moved to as early as November 15. By this date, students must choose whether or not they will be ready to take the exam six months later. In addition to the $94 fee of registration, there is now a forty dollar late fee if you miss the November date, as well as a forty dollar cancellation fee should you change your mind. Overall, the early registration and additional fees will only add to the disproportionate access to academic opportunities between high and low income students.
TotalRegistration has found that, on average, 37.4 percent of low income students received a “passing” score of three or higher on their AP test, while the national average lies closer to 59.7 percent. This data suggests that there is a connection between wealth and scores on AP exams. The disparity between low and high income students will only be amplified through an earlier registration date, as low income students will be less certain about whether or not they can pass an AP exam only a quarter of the way into the course. This makes it more likely that these students will get to their spring semester and realize that they are not prepared for the AP test, leading them to pay the $40 cancellation fee or to pay $94 and not pass the exam.
Matt Laurel, the student academic support coordinator at Berkeley High School (BHS) explained how the added stress of AP tests is “just another thing that students have to worry about.” He feels that by changing the registration date, The College Board demonstrates what they are really about, which is “making money and capitalizing off students who are trying to do their best to get into colleges.”
Some argue that schools can subsidize the prices of taking AP exams for lower income students. However, schools are struggling to afford the extra charges for students who sign up late or change their minds.
Many have criticized this move by The College Board as being motivated by money without regard to how low income students will be affected.
These students are already less likely to pass an AP exam, yet they are still pressured into signing up early or forced to pay a fee for having second thoughts after having a chance to experience the true extent of their AP coursework. In an attempt to reverse these changes, a change.org petition has been created by Jennifer Wander, a high school counselor in New Richmond, Wisconsin. As of right now, the petition already has 120,366 signatures, and counting.