Thanks to funding support from the federal government, states, and College Board, there has been a significant increase in AP participation by low-income students. The number of low-income U.S. students taking an AP Exam has grown from 362,000 in 2011 to 569,000 in 2021— an increase of 57%.
In 2021, 23% of U.S. AP Exam takers were low-income students, taking just over 900,000 AP Exams. Despite the significant challenges presented by the pandemic, this level of low-income student participation is higher than it was in 2019—a testament to the students’ commitment and resilience.
College Board is committed to ensuring that all students can access advanced coursework opportunities and provides a fee reduction for low-income students, which has totaled $161 million over the past five years.
Funding Sources for AP Exams in 2022
Title IV, Part A Grant Program (Every Student Succeeds Act)
For the 2021–22 school year, the Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program has been funded at $1.22 billion by Congress in the federal fiscal year 2021 budget. The vast majority (95%) of this funding will go to districts; states may reserve 1% for administrative purposes and an additional 4% for state-level activities.
States and districts may use Title IV, Part A funds for the following AP-related activities:
- Provide funding to cover part or all of the cost of AP Exam fees for low-income students in all schools (not just Title I schools);
- Increase student access to, and improving student achievement in, postsecondary level instruction and exams, including AP; and
- Fund specific AP courses/exams.
The Title IV, Part A funding distributed to states in 2021 can be used for AP Exams taken in May 2022.
States and districts receiving funds under Title IV, Part A must provide equitable services to students and teachers in private schools.
Title I Grant Program (Every Student Succeeds Act)
For the 2021–22 school year, the Title I Program has been funded at $16.5 billion by Congress in the federal fiscal year 2021 budget. Districts or schools receiving Title I funds may use those funds to cover AP Exam fees for low-income students. The funds must be used to supplement and not supplant any state or local funding for AP Exams.
States may also set aside 3% of their fiscal year 2021 Title I funds to provide grants to school districts for Direct Student Services, which include covering AP Exam fees and providing AP courses not currently offered.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (Federal Relief Packages)
Congress provided Elementary and Secondary Education Relief (ESSER) funds in three legislative packages passed in 2020 and 2021 that total nearly $190 billion to help states and districts as they address challenges associated with Covid-19.
Funding AP Exam fees for low-income students is an allowable use of ESSER funds. States and districts may use ESSER funding for activities necessary to maintain operations and continuity of services; any activity authorized under ESSA (including Title IV, Part A, which explicitly references funding AP Exam fees for low-income students as an allowable use); and planning for and coordinating during long-term closure.
State and Local Funds
Many states cover part or all of the costs of their students’ AP Exams by using state funds and local funds. For details about each state’s funding policies, visit the AP Exam Federal and State Assistance page.
Funding Required for 2022 AP Exams
College Board remains committed to ensuring access to the benefits of AP for low-income students, and will provide a $34 fee reduction per exam for students with financial need. For each 2022 AP Exam taken with a fee reduction, the school forgoes its $9 rebate, resulting in a cost of $53 per exam, or $101 for each AP Seminar Exam and each AP Research Exam.
Unless your state has announced a commitment to cover AP Exams for low-income students, districts should use their historical low-income exam participation data and current AP enrollment to inform their own exam volume and cost projections for 2022.
Act Now to Protect Funding for Low-Income Students
To ensure that low-income students receive funding to reduce the cost of their AP Exams, state and district leaders must act. The pandemic is creating learning gaps and highlighting the importance of high quality instructional materials and practices that will enable students to catch up and succeed.
Here are steps you can take now to protect and expand AP access for low-income students for the 2021-22 school year and beyond:
Urge state leaders to protect access to AP.
We recommend that you encourage your state and districts to prioritize funding for low-income students' AP Exam fees. You can visit your state's department or board of education website to learn more about how to provide feedback, including key dates.
States Are Acting
See which states have announced their commitment to fund AP Exams in 2021.
Email us if you have any questions.