The state will pick up the tab for low-income students taking Advanced Placement exams in science, technology, engineering and math subjects this year after the federal government stopped providing dedicated funding.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced Thursday morning at an Everett Chamber of Commerce Breakfast that the STEM Advisory Council will cover the costs of upcoming tests for low-income Massachusetts students, with an allocation of approximately $326,000.
“We know this was a great concern for many educators, students and their families, and we are very happy that the STEM Advisory Council agreed to help,” Polito, the advisory council’s co-chair, said in a statement.
The one-time funding will be used to pay AP exam fees in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, calculus, environmental science, and is expected to cover the costs for all low-income students taking the tests across the state, according to the Baker administration. Without federal money, exams would otherwise cost low-income students $53 each, or $15 if their school subsidizes part of the cost.
Since 1998, the federal government had provided states with dedicated funding to offset the costs of AP exams for low-income students, according to the College Board, which administers the exams through which high school students can earn college credit. The Every Student Succeeds Act eliminates that program beginning this year, instead consolidating AP funding with 40 other educational programs into a new block grant.
“Having become aware of the threat that budgetary uncertainty at the federal level is currently posing for low-income students to take AP tests, we are very grateful for the STEM Advisory Council’s generous support,” Education Secretary James Peyser said in a statement. “I am hopeful that this funding will ensure that all eligible AP students will be extended an opportunity to take AP exams in STEM subjects.”
The money will come from the STEM Pipeline Fund, an account within the Executive Office of Education that was funded at $1.5 million this fiscal year.
The fund’s purpose is to “increase the number of students who participate in programs that support careers in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” according to state law.
Massachusetts last year led the nation in AP results for the first time, with 31 percent of public high school graduates scoring at least a 3 out of 5 on an AP exam in 2016, according to the College Board.
The STEM Advisory Council includes representatives from state agencies, the Legislature and the public and private sector, and advises the governor and Cabinet on issues related to STEM education and related careers. U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy and Vertex CEO Dr. Jeff Leiden also serve as co-chairs.
“Barriers to AP tests leave too many underserved students at a disadvantage as they pursue STEM careers through high school and into college,” Kennedy said in a statement. “By using these funds to support students seeking to challenge themselves in our classrooms, we will not only help them grow and succeed, we are investing in the future of our workforce and economy.”