CUMBERLAND — Many schools in Maine, including my own, actively encourage students to challenge themselves by taking high-level courses. My district says that “all students should be encouraged and assisted in succeeding at the highest possible levels.” This encouragement is a positive thing, as it indicates the district’s desire for all students to succeed and thrive.

As a result, according to the College Board, which oversees the program, more and more students around the state are opting to take Advanced Placement designated courses, with an almost 57 percent increase in the number of students electing to take these higher-level courses over the past 10 years.

This change, however, has been accompanied by a decline in the percentage of Maine Advanced Placement students who elect to take the AP test. The number of new and diverse students taking AP courses is indeed a positive change, but because of the consistently rising price of the exam – now $94 per test – it is clear that taking the Advanced Placement test is becoming a symbol of social status, perpetuating the difference between those who can afford the test and those who cannot.

Advanced Placement exams are cumulative exams given at the end of one’s AP class, typically in May. Those who do well can receive recognition and earn college credit. The AP test offers many opportunities for high schoolers, and could ultimately lower the price of a college education if enough credit is earned.

From 1998 to 2016, the federal government provided states with funding to offset the cost of AP exams for low-income students under the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program. In 2017, however, the Every Student Succeeds Act consolidated this program with other programs, ending the setting aside of federal funding specifically to help defray AP exam costs.

This caused the AP exam fee for many low-income students to nearly double or even triple from a previous $32 per test. For students who elect to take an AP exam in more than one academic subject, the price can quickly rise into the hundreds of dollars, placing the strain on a student’s family and possibly dissuading students from pursuing Advanced Placement courses.

Though my school offers some financial assistance, it is limited and not well-publicized, and many of my own peers are unaware of the possible funding opportunities. What’s more, not all schools in Maine even offer funding, placing all of the monetary burden on the student or their family.

Some schools, including my own, will display the AP designation on a student’s transcript only if they have taken the corresponding AP test. This inadvertently makes it so that a student pays in order to have the Advanced Placement label on their transcript. This practice is disheartening for a student who spent large amounts of time and effort in this higher-level class, and it serves as a punishment to any student unable to pay the testing fee. Omitting the AP designation from one’s transcript not only is an unfair representation of what they’ve learned but also has the potential to affect college acceptances and future opportunities for students.

Advanced Placement tests have become a major part of a student’s high school education, and to ensure that no student misses out, AP exam fees should be fully or at least partly subsidized. There are many ways to acquire money for this endeavor: through grants, state or district funding, money reallocation – and even fundraisers similar to those performed by sports teams or sports boosters. Maine high schoolers are on an uneven playing field when it comes to Advanced Placement exams, and helping to fund AP exams will give students from all different backgrounds equal and new opportunities for success during and after high school.