Both Palo Alto High School and Henry M. Gunn High School Advanced Placement students know that each AP exam they take in May will come at a hefty financial cost. Many are unaware of the additional costs charged to them because of the district they are in.
The fee for an on-time registration for Paly and Gunn students is $115 per exam, according to both school’s websites. At Paly, the cost for the AP Chinese and Japanese tests is $145.
Around the Bay Area, prices are substantially lower. Both Menlo-Atherton and Homestead High School’s AP testing costs are set at $95 per exam, according to their websites. Traveling farther down the coast, Patrick Henry High School in San Diego has a cost of $89 per exam listed on their website. These costs are only slightly higher than or equal to the price listed on the College Board AP testing page, which states that tests cost $89.
According to Victoria Kim, an assistant principal at Paly, the extra cost the school takes in per exam is allocated to pay for administrative costs.
“There is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes,” Kim said “[It ranges] from ordering exams, to planning room locations and proctoring assignments, to sorting and preparing test bins, to collecting and organizing exams for return to College Board. … The cost of the exam is steep, I agree. The majority of that cost is set by College Board. Still though, there are many costs associated with being a host site for the AP exams.”
The administration at Gunn High School had a similar response.
“Each exam ordered costs $89,” Gunn Assistant Principal Trinity Klein wrote in an email to The Paly Voice. “The additional $26 per exam helps cover the cost of the additional administrative needs required to run exams at the volume we do. With nearly 900 students taking nearly 2,000 exams we also have to hire clerical support to prep tests, manage them as they come in, and prepare them for shipping. We buy a ton of extra pens and pencils because [students] seem to eat them up! The costs add up.”
The fact that such a large number of exams need to be proctored, prepared and distributed could justify the school district’s need for a larger cost for test takers. However, Monta Vista High School, located in Cupertino, had 2,843 tests taken by 1,076 students in 2013, according to its school website. Despite having a greater number of tests administered, Monta Vista charges $95 per test, $20 cheaper than the price set by both Paly and Gunn.
Many Paly students who are taking AP exams were surprised to hear of this large additional testing cost.
“I have friends who consider not taking the AP test because of the cost and it’s a bummer, because they have worked their butts off all year for the test they won’t even end up taking,” senior Savannah Moss said. “I wish the tests were more affordable, but I understand why they are so expensive.”
Moss, who is currently enrolled in four AP classes, has signed up to take two AP exams, and will pay $40 more than a student with the same plan at a typical Bay Area High School.
Senior Rachel Ekstrom did not share the same understanding as to why exam fees should be so much higher than those of other comparable schools, she said.
“It feels unfair that we have to pay $20 more for a reason that the administration hasn’t made explicitly clear to us,” Ekstrom said. “We should be given the same price as the other schools in the bay area.”
The deadline for registering for A.P. Exams was March 5th and late registration is from March 6th-19th. The price for late registration is $145. Students who have a verifiable financial need are eligible for reduced fees and should check with Assistant Principal Victoria Kim. Advanced Placement Testing runs from May 5th-15th. If you have questions about A.P. Testing, contact Kim at 650-329-3899, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the main office.