Oakland Tech students face financial hardships over AP test fees

The administrators at Oakland Tech High School say hundreds of students taking AP or advanced placement classes are facing a financial hardship.

They need to take a test at the end of the school year to get college credit. 

Last year, the district had grant money to pay the test  fees,  but not this year due to budget cuts.

Officials say this is a dilemma that shows how students from low-income families can be put at a disadvantage. 

Each student has to pay $94 per AP test. It's a test that can make a difference in a student's path towards college and beyond.

On Tuesday, students looking towards college attend an afterschool presentation about financial aide to find their footing.

Some are taking AP classes and just learned they'll have to find a way to pay a $94 fee for each test to get college credit.

"My parents struggle already. It's hard to pay bills, go grocery shopping. AP tests don't seem as worthy as the grocery shopping," says Edrees Saied. The high school senior says he's taking four AP classes.

But the 17-year-old aspiring mechanical engineer doubts his parents can afford to pay $376 for the four tests, so he could lose the chance for college credits or prove he's capable of college level work.

"Education should be a free and accessible opportunity for students, for every single student," says Angela Taylor, assistant principal at Oakland Tech.  She coordinates the AP program at the school. She says there are about 600 students in AP classes and many can not afford the test fees 

"When you start imposing fees, you start differentiating who has access to what," says Taylor.  

She says it's an example of income inequality leading to opportunity inequality. 

"You see your hard work.  You don't have the money to pay for it.  How are you going to make it? says Julianna Swearengen, a senior who's taking an AP class on statistics.   

She and her mother say they'll figure out a way to pay the fee, after recently downsizing to a smaller apartment. 

"We're not poor. We're middle income. But in the Bay Area, with the cost of rents, it's crazy.  We're struggling," says Jeanette Swearengen, Julianna's mother.  

"The AP course was a way to prove my abilities to myself.  But seeing that it's $94 a test, It made me question whether I'll have the opportunity to do so," says Edrees.

The deadline to pay the AP test fees is March 30. Some students do qualify for a lower rate  through the College Board.  

The principal says teachers and parents have banded together to try to raise the money needed to pay the fees.

Donations can be made directly to Oakland Tech,  designated specifically for AP test fees.

One mother has started a Gofundme account. You can check it out here. 

More information on AP Exam fee reductions