Exam fees raise concern among students

Avery Goodstine, Staff Writer

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By Avery Goodstine

Even with a few more months until IB and AP exam time, the hot topic of exam fees is always buzzing around the school. With exams costing anywhere from $270-$500 over the span of just one year, it raises some alarm in the eyes of the students and families here at PA.

Senior Cody Scott had to pay about $300 for a total of four exams and believes that for some people that can be, “quite a hefty fee.”

AP exam coordinator and guidance counselor Kim Love said people pay as much as $270, depending on how many exams are taken. “I have even had some who had to pay about $360,” she said.  

“Somewhere along the line,” said principal Danny Little, “the concept of free public education has died.”

Little also commented that seniors can expect to pay well over $1,000 if they are applying to colleges, as college applications can range anywhere from $30-$90. Little noted, “As a student, you need to be aware of that and as a parent, you need to be aware of that.”

“Those large fee amounts could lead to slight hesitancy when it comes to college because it’s almost like a tip of the iceberg,” said Scott. “You pay $1,000 for tests here and then you look at college and it’s thousands and thousands of dollars more a year.”

At PAHS, students are responsible for paying the full cost of their exams including registration fees. However, other schools in Virginia have a very different system than ours.

Before he was at PA, Little was at a school in Fairfax County where the district paid for all exam fees.

“That was one burden that was taken off of students and parents so they can just focus on learning and applying themselves,” he said.

Little thinks that our local government is already gradually beginning to move in that direction as well. “When you look at the NIMSI (National Math and Science Initiative) grant, that is outside funding that is helping to provide resources for students to support them in the classroom,” he said, “but it also pays for part of the examination fee and it pays students for successful test scores.”

NIMSI gives attention to those students who attain a certain score on their math or science exam by rewarding them with a check.

Little believes the district may “want to consider it as a line item budget amount or it could offset the cost.”

Despite these hefty exam fees, it is important to note how paying for them now can save students money in the long run.

“You have to look at the bigger picture. If you do well in the course and do well on the exam, you’re saving money when you go to college,” said Love.

“Especially with AP tests, some colleges will let you waive certain classes if you score well enough on the exams,” said Scott, “so what is paying $50 to $100 for an AP calculus exam if that gets you all of your math credits in college where each of those courses could be a few thousand dollars,” he continued.

There are also programs put in place to provide aid for those who are financially unable to pay for all of their exams.

If a student has free or reduced lunch he or she is able to get an offset cost. If the student’s parents are affected by the government shutdown or there is another circumstance at home, the access advisor, Mrs. Phillips, is available for students in that kind of situation.

Little added that as a school, they try to fundraise to raise money to help pay for the exams, or they try to use pre-existing funds to offset the current costs.  

“[The fees] shouldn’t affect a students decision to take AP courses,” said Love, “because if there’s a financial need we do have money available to help those students so it shouldn’t prohibit any student from taking an AP class that wants to.”

“The goal is not knowing that we can pay the full cost, but how can we make it easier or manageable for students,” said Little.