Low-income students in Mississippi will have help paying for Advanced Placement (AP) exam fees after the U.S. Department of Education awarded the state nearly $190,000 to offset test costs.

The goal is that by subsidizing test fees, more students will take these advanced placement tests and earn college credit for high school courses should they score at the 3, 4, or 5 level on their exam. AP tests are administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations.

This is the fourth year Mississippi has received funds from the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program and is part of an ongoing effort by the state to increase the number of students taking AP courses and tests. The most recent data from the College Board shows 3,268 high school students graduated having taken an AP exam in 2013, compared to 3,615 in 2012, the first year of the grant.

“We are working to increase the number of students exposed to AP courses and exams,” said Jean Massey, Mississippi Department of Education executive director of secondary education. “The AP exams let us know that students are getting a good AP experience and are prepared for post-secondary coursework.”

The grants are expected to pay all but $15 of the cost of each advanced placement test taken by these students, according to the State Department of Education. The cost to take an AP exam is $93, according to the College Board.

“The cost of a test should never prevent students from taking their first step towards higher education through advanced placement courses,” James Cole Jr., general counsel delegated the duties of deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “These grants are an important tool for states, and ultimately schools, to empower students from low-income neighborhoods to succeed in challenging courses.”

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.