(CNSNews.com) - President Obama's Education Department announced on Wednesday it will spend $21.5 million in grants to 43 states to cover all or part of the fees charged to low-income students who want to take Advanced Placement tests.
Students who take AP classes in high school -- and earn passing scores on the final exams -- can earn college credit and "stand out in the admission process," says the College Board, which administers the AP exams.
"Advanced Placement participation is an important element in creating a college-going culture in our high schools," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in an Aug. 1 news release announcing the subsidies. "AP courses help students develop the study skills, critical reasoning and habits of mind that prepare them for the transition to college. They give students -- particularly first-generation college-goers -- the confidence that they can successfully handle college-level work."
By subsidizing test fees for low-income students, the discretionary grant program is intended to encourage low-income students to take AP tests, potentially reducing the time and cost to complete a post-secondary degree.
Based on the anticipated number of test-takers and other factors, the grants are expected to pay up to $38 per Advanced Placement exam for as many as three exams per student.
The regular fee for each exam is $87. But the College Board notes that fee reductions already are available: "Fee reductions of $26 per exam are available from the College Board for students with financial need. In addition, schools forgo their $8 rebate for each fee-reduced exam, making the final fee for these students $53 per exam."
"These funds will help eliminate financial roadblocks for more low-income students and allow them to fully benefit from the AP program," Duncan said.
Levels of funding to each state were based on state estimates of how many tests would be taken by low-income students.
The California Department of Education received the most money by far -- $7,603,946, followed by Texas ($2,006,084), Illinois ($1,721,335), and New York ($1,605,920).
At the bottom of the list were South Dakota ($9,868), New Hampshire ($10,408) and Alaska ($16,698).
According to the College Board, AP "can help you acquire the skills and habits you'll need to be successful in college."