Skeptics are fighting back against the College Board’s proposed changes to AP exams, which they claim could make things more stressful and expensive for high school students.
Traditionally, students register to take AP exams in March, but the proposed changes, which would go into effect before the 2019-20 school year, would force students to register in November.
And in addition to the $94 it costs students to take an AP exam, the proposed changes will make students pay a $40 late fee and a $40 cancelation fee.
“November is way too early in the year to make these decisions,” said Jennifer Wander, a high school counselor in New Richmond, Wisconsin, who recently started a petition against the College Board’s proposed changes.
“Students are already stressed about applying to college and paying for scholarships along with other adolescent stressors,” she continued. “They do not need extra fees assessed to pressure them to sign up for a test that they have no way of knowing whether they will be ready for.”
Her petition, which urges the College Board to respond to her demands by March 31, 2019, already has been signed by over 100,000 people.
“Every day I see students in their junior and senior years coping with the anxiety of getting into college,” Wander wrote in her petition. “The cost of applications and exams, not to mention the prep courses and other expenses regularly paid by privileged students, are widening the gap between what is possible for those in difficult economic situations.”
The College Board, however, suggests that its proposed changes will benefit high school students, especially those in underrepresented groups, including low-income students, minority students and girls taking science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses.
Last year, as an experiment, the College Board asked 40,000 high schools students from 800 different schools to decide in the fall whether or not they would take their AP exam.
The organization concluded that when students register to take an AP exam in the fall, their chances of earning a 3 (the minimum passing grade) or higher increases.
“It gets them engaged right from the beginning because they want to pass, they want to do well on it.” Brandon Griffin, an AP physics teacher, explained in a video on the College Board’s website.
Some students had a similar reaction.
“It’s definitely been a constant reminder that I’m taking an AP class, I’m here to do work and I’m here to make sure that work is shown.” Ezinne Iwuanyanwu, an AP student, said in the video.
Wander, along with many other high school teachers and counselors, recognizes the importance of AP exams, but they still don’t believe these changes will benefit students.
“Earning college credits in high school has been an amazing opportunity for all students,” said Wander. “It has saved them thousands of dollars in tuition, fees, books, etc.”
“I’m not sure why changing the timeline and assessing larger fees is going to increase these opportunities,” she continued. “The College Board says they did research from the 800 pilot schools last year, but I just don’t buy it. Many of us in the AP community feel it is simply a money grab for College Board.”
It is worth noting that Wander doesn’t disapprove of every adjustment the College Board is making. The organization is adding resources for teachers and students, including new practice questions, instructional videos and online assessments that give students feedback — of which Wander refers to as “great changes.”
But in regards to the proposed fees and schedule changes, Wander is very concerned.
“Let’s face it, the College Board says they’re a nonprofit, but really they are all about money,” Wander wrote in her petition. “They made $200 million last year and paid their CEO $1.4 million. They are going to make at least $40 million more every year with this new policy, which is supposed to go into effect next school year. The College Board doesn’t care about students – they only care about their bottom line.”
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.