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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provide funding for AP Exams and courses.

Under the ESSA Title IV, Part A block grant, funding is provided to states and districts, which can be used to subsidize their low-income students' AP Exam fees. The majority of these funds (95%) are distributed to districts, but states can reserve up to 5% of the funds and use them for the same purpose.

Under the CARES Act, funding is provided to help states and districts as they address challenges associated with covid-19. Funding for AP Exam fees for low-income students is an allowable use.

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Title IV, Part A Funding for AP Exams

For the 2020–21 school year, the Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program has been funded at $1.2 billion by Congress in the federal fiscal year 2020 budget. States and districts can use these funds to provide support for AP students and expand access to AP courses.

States and districts may use Title IV, Part A funds for the following AP-related activities:

  • Providing 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);
  • Increasing student access to, and improving student achievement in, postsecondary level instruction and exams, including AP; and
  • Funding specific AP courses/exams.

The Title IV, Part A funding distributed to states in summer 2020 can be used for AP Exams taken in May 2021.

States and districts receiving funds under Title IV, Part A must provide equitable services to students and teachers in private schools.

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CARES Act Funding for AP Exams

For the 2020-21 school year, Congress has provided $13.23 billion for K-12 education through the CARES Act to help states respond to challenges caused by the coronavirus. State education departments and districts may use CARES Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for activities necessary to maintain operations and continuity of services; any activity authorized under ESSA; and planning for and coordinating during long-term closure. Funding AP Exam fees for low-income students is an allowable use.

States can retain up to 10% of ESSER funds and distributes the remaining amount to districts. States and districts can use their ESSER allocations to fund AP Exam fees for low-income students.

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Funding Required for 2021 AP Exams

College Board remains committed to ensuring access to the benefits of AP for low-income students, and will provide a $33 fee reduction per exam for students with financial need. For each 2021 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 2021. For example: If your district expects to administer 100 low-income exams in 2021, the cost to make the exams free for these students would be $5,300.

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Additional Sources of AP Funding

State and Local Control Funds: A number of states cover the costs of their students’ AP Exams by using local funds. For example, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina cover the cost of AP Exams for all public school students using state funds. Others use state funds to pay for a specific subset of exams such as exams taken by low-income students, or exams taken in specific disciplines like STEM.

ESSA Title I: States may set aside 3% of their fiscal year 2020 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.

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Act Now to Protect Funding for Low-Income Students

To ensure that low-income students continue to 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 engaging learning resources. Low-income students will need high quality instructional materials and practices during the recovery to enable them to catch up and succeed.

Here are steps you can take now to protect and expand AP access for low-income students for the 2020-21 school year and beyond:

  1. Announce your commitment to fund low-income students' 2021 AP Exams.

    By publicly announcing your state's or district's commitment to make 2021 AP Exams free or affordable to all low-income students, you can guarantee access to AP.

    In addition to providing state funds, a state may use Title IV, Part A funds, CARES Act funds, or Title I, Part A funds to cover AP Exam fees for low-income students in 2021.

    Your announcement—on your state or district website, newsletter, or other channels—will reassure students and families that AP is still available to them and will also protect the progress your district or state has made to close AP equity gaps.

  2. 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.

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States Are Acting

See which states have announced their commitment to fund AP Exams in 2021.

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