AP exam prices are rising and I am worried



The financial stress of AP exams is an omnipresent force at the high school. The price increase can be a burden for many families.

In the eyes of many college admission offices, Advanced Placement (AP) courses make a student’s transcript and application more impressive — specifically for those who get good scores on their end-of-year AP exams. Considering prestigious universities such as Harvard, where the student body has an average of eight AP courses taken during high school, taking AP exams seems like a must. So, what’s keeping people from taking them?

In 2022, the AP exam administration rate increased by $9, from $96 to $105. If a student is taking those eight AP exams that may be beneficial to enroll in Ivy League schools, families would have to pay $805 for one student alone. The price increase may seem insignificant to many, specifically in Brookline, but for low-income students and families with multiple children, exam prices gradually increasing over time may be a significant financial burden.

Just when I thought the pressure to spend hundreds of dollars on AP exams couldn’t get any worse, I learned that the College Board decided to push the exam registration deadline date significantly earlier than ever before. Whereas the deadline fell around March in previous years, the 2022-2023 school year deadline is Nov. 15th, with a $40 late penalty fee. Now, families have mere weeks to decide whether or not they can spend the costly price without being penalized.

The financial inaccessibility of education is almost dystopian. Even in public schools, the amount of money necessary for many who choose to pursue further education after high school is preposterous. With the fees from college applications, exams, calculators, textbooks, tutoring and other helpful resources piling up, some families need to drop hundreds to thousands of dollars before college even begins. And don’t even get me started on student loans. Injustices such as these, including the increase in AP fees, are major contributing factors to institutional racism.

The AP enrollment at the high school heavily underrepresents students of color; white students are nearly four times more likely to be enrolled in AP classes than Black students. According to statistics documented by ProPublica, AP courses at the high school are composed of 69 percent white, 6 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Black students. These statistics are particularly disturbing when considering the student body, which, though already lacking diversity, consists of 59 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic and 8 percent Black students.

The racial composition of AP classes at the high school shows significant disparities, according to data collected by ProPublica. (SERENA IBAENZ/SAGAMORE STAFF)

According to Data USA’s 2020 census information, 19.65 percent of Black residents in Brookline are under the poverty line, as opposed to only 9.11 percent of white residents. 14.50 percent of Asian, 12.70 percent of Hispanic and 10.78 percent of Native residents fall under this line as well, all at higher rates than that of white people in Brookline. There is no question that these differences are a result of systemic racism in the town and country, especially considering the history of redlining in the Brookline and Boston area. Considering which groups of people tend to have lower incomes, the ratio of students in AP courses that require such a large fee does not seem like a coincidence.

Fortunately, Brookline, as well as many other districts across the country, has a financial aid waiver program. Students who qualify for financial assistance with AP fees can contact Dean Alexia Thomas or ask their counselors, as directed on the AP registration instruction form. These programs are definitely a bandaid over a bullet hole in relation to the issue of socioeconomic racism in the town, but because they exist, I do not think any students should be discouraged from taking these courses.

Ultimately, I could not tell you whether the gaps in the races of students taking AP classes are due to the increase in exam prices or not. There are other factors at play, such as the racist and elitist culture that discourages students of color that are upheld by both peers and teachers. But considering the common issue of systemic racism leading to income inequalities – an especially prevalent issue in Brookline – there is no doubt that an increase in the cost of educational opportunities will ultimately have a negative impact on lower-income students, who are disproportionately students of color. The pattern of educational boundaries and suppression, even ones seemingly as simple as a $9 raise in an exam fee, all pile up to contribute to the further oppression of minority groups in America and have major consequences. Do better, College Board.