SRVUSD hikes up AP test registration fee by $30 for the second year

While+the+steep+price+of+SRVUSD%27s+AP+exams+comes+off+as+a+scam+to+some%2C+the+money+actually+goes+right+back+to+the+student+in+the+form+of+resources+and+study+materials.

Udita Jonnala

While the steep price of SRVUSD’s AP exams comes off as a scam to some, the money actually goes right back to the student in the form of resources and study materials.

Caroline Lobel and Sneha Cheenath

A myriad of changes were made to the Advanced Placement (AP) test registration process last year, including an additional $30 administration fee per test issued by the SRVUSD on top of CollegeBoard’s standard cost of $95 per test (excluding AP Seminar and AP Research tests which cost $143 each before the administration fee). This brings the total price of a single AP test to almost $130, which many students find to be excessive.

Adrienne Fong, a senior at DVHS, said the fee is “completely unreasonable” because of how “Dougherty isn’t at all transparent about where this extra money is going.” 

In a typical school year, an administration fee seems valid given the cost of test materials and proctors, but when the school shut down due to COVID-19 back in March, AP tests became self-administered and this fee was never refunded, leaving many students confused and out of tens, even hundreds of dollars.

SRVUSD’s increased cost has deterred Fong from taking a fourth AP test, even though she’s currently taking four AP classes, stating that the administrative fee on top of her AP Research test is “way too much.” Fong also noted that a higher fee “defeats the purpose of an AP test — where you take it to earn college credits, saving students money in the long run.” 

SRVUSD actually charges more than neighboring schools. For example, the Dublin Unified School District charges $110, and Oakland Technical High School charges $94. Additionally, SRVUSD didn’t charge this much for AP tests before, as the exam fee was $110 during the 2018-2019 school year. The reason for the $15 increase in the administration fee within the past couple of years was not explicitly stated. However, it can be seen that as more students registered for AP tests, the more the fee went up.

Every dollar goes back to the student whether it be in the form of classroom resources or proper materials on test day.”

In May 2019, before all the AP test registration changes occurred, Dougherty administered 3016 exams, which drastically increased to 3963 exams administered in May 2020, after students were allowed to register for AP tests that SRVUSD doesn’t offer courses for (independent study tests). As of Oct. 2, Dougherty has 3940 registered exams out of a potential 4412 to administer for May 2021.

Lauren Falkner, Dougherty’s Assistant Principal and AP test coordinator, explained that exam fees sustain the district’s AP programs for the whole year, in addition to covering administration costs. Furthermore, when these costs were set, the district did not look at what other schools in the area charged for their tests.

These administration costs traditionally include extra tables and chairs for the performance art center, custodial overtime costs and compensation for proctors. Falkner noted that the district often struggles to acquire proctors so they are compensated more generously than other schools. Additionally, in 2019, $11,000 was spent to rent tables and chairs, which was anticipated to be $14,000 in 2020.

Falkner also explained that the funds allocated for administration were not spent last year, as the test was online. The money is currently sitting in their funds, which could help administer possible in-person AP testing come May 2021.

This could add costs, as they would have to buy PPE and cleaning supplies. The district might also have to host off-campus testing to accommodate social distancing guidelines, which would mean renting out facilities and more tables and chairs. 

However, not all of the money goes toward test-day preparations. APTS (Achievement Point Test Service) is the outside service that the district hired in 2019 to help manage AP test payment and student information. They have a service fee of $2.35 per exam registered. The remainder of the money goes toward the professional development of AP teachers, ongoing training and classroom supplies such as a class set of AP prep books and subscription services like Albert.io.

Money for AP teacher resources is not included in the district’s budget, so it comes from the administration fee that students pay, which ends up in the “bucket of AP funds,” as Falkner called it. 

“When your teachers need something, they come see me and they go ‘Can I spend X amount of dollars? I want to get this subscription program to this.’ … This is why I like to have a little pot of money set aside because I want to say ‘Yes’ to my teachers,” Falkner said. 

While Dougherty’s AP prices prove to be steep, the price is justified, as every dollar goes back to the student whether it be in the form of classroom resources or proper materials on test day. 

Falkner says, “We’re not out to price gouge students. We really take a look at what our costs and what our overhead is and really spend our money wisely. We want you to have a successful AP experience.”