Changes to AP Federal Funding Under ESSA

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Since 1998, the federal government has provided states with dedicated funding to offset the cost of AP Exams for low-income students under a Title I program called the Advanced Placement® Test Fee Program.

Beginning in 2017, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will eliminate this program, and consolidate AP funding with 40 other educational programs under a new Title IV, Part A block grant.

The vast majority (95%) of this new Title IV, Part A funding will go to districts, which can use these funds to subsidize their low-income students’ AP Exam fees this year and next. States can reserve up to 5% of the funds and use them for the same purpose.

Additional funding beyond Title IV, Part A is also available for states and districts.

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Title IV, Part A Funding for AP Exams

The new Title IV block grant will be funded in the federal fiscal year 2017 budget. Congress is scheduled to finalize the budget in late April 2017. Once the overall Title IV funding level is announced, states and districts will get their allocations.

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
  • Funding specific AP courses/exams

States and districts receiving funds under Title IV, Part A must provide equitable services to students and teachers in private schools. For more information, visit: CAPE’s Private Schools and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Title IV, Part A funding will be available starting in summer 2017 and can be used for AP Exams in May 2017 and beyond. However, 2017 is a critical year for funding. Because ESSA implementation occurs primarily in the 2017-18 school year, Congress included a Special Rule under Title IV, Part A to allow states and districts to use their fiscal year 2017 Title IV, Part A funds to cover AP Exams taken by low-income students in both May 2017 and in May 2018.

As a result, for fiscal year 2017, states and districts will need to use one year of federal funding to cover two years’ worth of AP Exams.

It’s important to note that the first Title IV, Part A funds will be disbursed to districts this summer or fall, which will be after the June 15, 2017, deadline for payment to the College Board for 2017 AP Exams. Districts/schools that intend to wait to use Title IV, Part A funds to pay for low-income students’ 2017 AP Exams should contact AP Services for Educators at 877-274-6474 or

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Funding Required for 2017 and 2018 AP Exams

The College Board remains committed to ensuring access to the benefits of AP for low-income students, and will reduce the cost of any AP Exam taken by a qualifying student to $53 in 2017 and 2018, which includes schools forgoing their $9 rebate per 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 2017 and 2018. For example: if your district expects to administer 100 low-income exams in 2017, and 125 low-income exams in 2018, the cost to make the exams free for these students would be $5,300 in 2017 and $6,625 in 2018.

The College Board can give you the total number of low-income students and AP Exams taken in your district from 2014, 2015, and 2016 to help you estimate the amount you’ll need to cover 2017 and 2018 AP Exams. To request that information, email

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Additional Sources of AP Funding Under ESSA

States may set aside 3% of their fiscal year 2017 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.

This option will be available starting with the May 2018 exams, and could help states and districts manage the transition to ESSA.

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Act Now to Protect Funding for Low-Income Students

To ensure that low-income students continue to receive federal funding to reduce the cost of their AP Exams, state and district leaders must act.

Here are steps you can take now to protect and expand AP access for low-income students for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years and beyond:

1. Announce your commitment to fund low-income students’ 2017 AP Exams.

By publicly announcing your state’s or district’s commitment to make 2017 AP Exams free or affordable to all low-income students, you can ensure that the uncertainty of federal funding won’t keep students from participating in AP. In addition to Title IV, Part A funds, a state may use carryover funds from Title I or from the 2016 AP Test Fee Program to cover AP Exam fees for low-income students in 2017.

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 in ESSA plans

States are currently seeking stakeholder input as they develop ESSA plans. These plans, which will include priorities for states’ Title IV, Part A funds, will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017.

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 give feedback, including key dates.

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