AP tests would get Missouri subsidy

Gov. Blunt’s plan would pay half the cost of math and science tests.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Since 1955, high school students have been given an opportunity to get ahead on college credits with the Advanced Placement test program. The cost, however, has made it increasingly difficult for some Missouri students to take advantage of it, but a new proposal from Gov. Matt Blunt aims to remedy the situation.

Last week, Blunt proposed $250,000 of the state budget to pay for up to 50 percent of students’ AP math and science exam fees. The proposal is a part of his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2008.

In Columbia, the exams, which each cost $83, are typically paid for entirely by parents or students without help from schools. The College Board, which administers the AP tests, offers fee reductions of $22 per exam for students with financial need.

Columbia’s high schools also provide extra assistance for students who are in financial need — for example, those eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Ann Landes, director of guidance at Hickman High School, said that each year only about 10 to 15 students at the school require financial help to take AP tests. Rock Bridge High School has 10 or fewer, said Marsha Uphoff, director of guidance at Rock Bridge.

Hickman offers 20 AP courses, and Rock Bridge offers 18.

Until 2005, if students scored “proficient” or above on a particular subject of the Missouri Assessment Program standardized test, the state would pay the entire fee for that subject area’s AP test. For example, a proficient score in English on the MAP test would lead to a free AP English test.

“The state of Missouri until two years ago paid for students (to take the AP exam) as an incentive if they did well on the MAP, and the state pulled that funding,” Landes said. “Our state pretty much pulled all the funding for AP.”

Jim Morris, director of public information for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the program had $663,600 in the 2004-05 school year.

However, an eventual “limitation of funds” is what the department’s deputy commissioner, Bert Schulte, cited as the reason for the program’s end.

Landes said it was hard to tell exactly how many students stopped taking AP tests as a result of the lack of funding, but she said she did notice a decrease. In 2005, 698 tests were taken by Hickman students; last year, the number decreased to 564.

Blunt’s proposal has so far been met with mixed reactions.

“I don’t think it would make me take more math and science classes,” Hickman junior Katie Benthall said. “If you’re really interested in it, then money won’t be an issue."

Dylan Harris, a junior at Hickman who took an AP course last year, said he thinks the incentive could be effective.

“It’s cheaper for me, and it will reflect better on you for college,” he said.

Landes is not so sure the funding would affect the number of test-takers.

“I would say it’s not going to significantly raise our numbers,” she said.

Often, students enrolled in AP courses don’t have a problem paying the fee because they know it will benefit them when they enter college.

“Many students want to earn college credit while still in high school, and we would be very happy to see the bulk of this credit be AP credit,” Barbara Rupp, director of admissions at MU, wrote in an e-mail.

On top of AP credit, MU also accepts dual credit — college coursework taken in high school — but AP credits are more likely to be accepted at schools outside of Missouri.

Missouri student enrollment in AP classes has steadily increased over the past several years. Morris said the number of students taking AP courses rose to 11,501 in 2006 from 10,467 in 2005.

Last year, 297 out of 2,048 Hickman students — or 14.5 percent — took AP tests. At Rock Bridge, 309 out of 1,726 students — about 18 percent — underwent testing.

Rupp said 14.5 percent of first-time students entering MU in 2006 came with AP credits.

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