Advanced Placement (AP) tests are expensive, but they haven’t always been this way. AP testing was created in 1951 amid a concern that students going to college weren’t fully prepared for the many challenges to come. The College Board is the only organization to offer AP tests, which means that it has a monopoly over the market and can change the price to essentially any level. AP tests were offered nationally in 1956 for a mere ten-dollar fee for any test on any topic. Since then, prices have surged to $87 in 2012, which is nine dollars less than what they are predicted to cost in 2022 — a whopping $96. If this rate of increase continues, in four or five years, these tests will already cost over one hundred dollars each.
Due to the hefty costs, many students from lower-income families can’t afford to take the tests. This is where the Berkeley High School Development Group (BHSDG) comes in. “The Berkeley High Development Group is a non-profit organization that is all volunteer-run, mostly parents, who are trying to figure out where the best use of parent donations are. For example, in the [Universal 9th Grade], we have money from the development group to buy materials. Some grants are for teachers to help improve their classes,” said Hasmig Minassian, a U9 Freshman Seminar teacher.
These grants aren’t only given to teachers, but also to clubs and other student-led groups. One such group, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) Chapter of Berkeley High School (BHS), plans on using this grant money to help students who need the aid to pay for testing.
Talia McMahon, a senior and former president of the YDSA Chapter of BHS, said, “If we receive these grants, we can give [students in need] the money so that they don’t have to pay for these tests and can take them without worrying about the cost.”
In the process of applying for the grant, YDSA Co-President Anjuna Mascarenhas-Swan created an anonymized form to gather information about family income and other demographic data that students looking to apply will fill out. Student applications will be processed by BHS Principal Juan Raygoza and the heads of AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) testing, Matt Albinson and Keldon Clegg. Financial aid will then be given to students through a lottery system in order to ensure equal access.
When implemented, many more families will be able to pay the price that the College Board has set for AP tests. Students that were previously unable to take AP and IB tests will now be able to take them because of BHSDG. Not only will taking these tests help save money for students now, but it will also save them money in the future.
“I think that the AP testing costs are way too much. Everything you learn in the class is directed towards the test,” said Andrea Leon, a senior at BHS. Leon is currently taking two AP classes, meaning that she will need to pay around two hundred dollars. Many BHS students take even more AP classes and have to pay six hundred, or even seven hundred, dollars for their tests.
If you get above a score of three on an AP test, you may receive college credit that allows you to skip some classes. Taking enough AP tests and getting a good score on enough of them can shave an entire year off of college, which means saving up to $15,000 if you go to a University of California (UC) and much more if you go to a school with higher tuition.
Additionally, getting the IB diploma can guarantee the same results at many universities across the country. Making this option more accessible to the students who need it most is an important step towards ensuring equity in higher education.
To apply for a grant with BHSDG, you can fill out an online application (you can find more on their website). It takes up to four weeks for a check request to process fully and the applications can be done anytime during the school year. Hopefully, in the future, AP and IB tests will be accessible to all, while also being offered at a reasonable price.
Disclaimer: Anjuna Mascarenhas-Swan is an editor of the Jacket.