Overlea’s Overcharging Fees : The Hidden Cost Of AP Exams.

May 8, 2017

 

Students who take AP courses can relate to the nights of studying and doing homework until midnight or spending five hours on one subject. All the stress and challenges you’ve endured is something that you pushed aside because you knew it was worth it at the end of the day. As the school year comes to a close and you are finally prepared to take the AP tests, you quickly realize that the rumors are true: that the cost of exams is $93. You ask yourself, ” How could this be?” You feel sick to your stomach as students and teachers constantly remind you of the new cost of AP exams. Your mind begins spinning while trying to figure out how you’re going to cover the cost of the exam. If you’re like me, a student who takes more than one AP course, paying for one AP exam is the least of your concerns.
Last year, the cost of AP exams was free for all students who were interested in taking it. The substantial increase from $0 to 93 has surprisingly shock students, especially since Overlea High School is classified as Title I school where over half of the students here have free or reduce lunch. With Overlea being a Title I school and receiving most of its funds from the federal government, questions remain as to why the cost of AP exams is expensive this year. Over the course of a few weeks, I have investigated why the cost of AP exams have been modified.
As of March 29th , it was communicated to the students that the new cost of AP exams will now be $5 for students who don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch, and is free for students who do qualify for free or reduce lunch. However, questions still remain of why the AP exam was originally $93.

 

At the beginning of my investigation, I interviewed Mr. Kotarides, the APUSH and STAT teacher. When being asked about his opinion of students having to pay an outrageous cost for AP exams, he gives me a stern look and says ” My personal opinion on the test is that I would like to see it covered because I know it’s a hardship for a lot of families. As a dad who has two kids and puts out a lot of money for my kids, I know what it’s like to have to put out money, especially when its tight and you don’t have it.” Mr. Kotarides doesn’t exactly agree with the cost of AP exams but understands why the price is relatively high. ” The Advanced Placement(AP) exam is ran by the College Board and unfortunately they’re a private entity seeking to make money. I can’t see them just letting students take it for free because their a big testing company,” said Mr. Kotarides.

 

If College Board is a company who makes profit by designing the AP exams, why were they free for students who attended Overlea High School, last year? With only a partial answer to why the AP exams were originally so expensive, I decided to dig deeper into the investigation by interviewing Ms. Stump, the guidance counselor, here at Overlea.

 

During the interview with Ms. Stump, I came across some surprising news about the cost of Last Year’s AP exams. When I asked Ms. Stump to elaborate on the costs of AP exams last year, she says ,” Last Year, Dr. Dwarte gave us $3,000 to offset the costs for AP tests for kids who didn’t qualify for free and reduce lunch. What typically happens was if you received free or reduced lunch, you got an automatic $35 waiver from college board, then the State kicked in the rest of the money, so it was free. When we did our budget and factored in money for AP exams , that’s what we planned on. This year they took away the extra waiver, not the $35 College Board waiver, and they put it into federal funding for ESSA. Now the local school districts are scrambling because they’re not releasing the money until next school year .”

 

The cost of AP exams were never truly free, but with the support of the state and local districts, it was easy for them to negate the costs. Because the funding for AP exams was put into another budget without notifying the local districts, schools like Overlea, have no way to account for the cost of AP exams in this year’s school budget. Overall, this explains why students who are not eligible for free or reduced lunch are forced to pay the costs of the exam out of pocket.

 

After numerous amounts of research and interview sessions, it is quite clear why the AP exams are so expensive this school year. Although, Mr. Kotarides and Ms. Stump, helped me find an explanation to the cost of AP exams, I felt it was necessary for me to acquire some input from a student’s perspective. During my last few days of the investigation, I interviewed Tabitha Olsen, a Senior who partakes in five AP courses, at Overlea High School.

 

When it was originally stated that the cost of AP exams were $93, Tabitha knew she would have to approximately pay $560 for all five of her courses, one in which includes two exams. When I approached and asked her how she felt about the situation, she gave me miserable look and said,” It sucks because last year I didn’t have to pay for the AP exam and ,so I could take pretty much as many as I wanted, but this year I have six I need to take. I just told my parents in advance, so we’re just saving up right now.” Now that the cost of AP exams is only $5 per test, Tabitha is relieved that her parents don’t have to pay an expensive cost, and most importantly, she is thrilled by the fact that she can now take all of her exams.

 

As of today, it is confirmed by Ms. Stump that for students who are not eligible for free or reduce lunch, only have to pay $5. While the cost of AP exams have dramatically decrease and have become more affordable for all students, there are many questions that are still unanswered. Did the school partake in reducing the costs for AP exams or was this Baltimore County’s doing? Does this new $5 policy apply to all Baltimore County schools? Will the AP exams remain $5 next year? As of right now, the answer to these questions are unknown.

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