The International Baccalaureate organization announced that it will eliminate a $172 registration fee for all students taking subject-area exams in its college preparatory program.
The IB is getting rid of the flat fee that students had to pay to register for exams. They’ll still have to pay the standard $119 fee for each course they take in the IB’s Diploma Programme. Those courses can qualify students for college credit.
One of the big problems with the registration fee was that if students sat for exams at multiple points during the year, they may have had to pay the registration fee more than once.
“We had been hearing from our U.S. schools quite a lot that in the public school setting, this fee is quite a cost barrier,” said Siva Kumari, the director general of IB.
The organization also expects that the change, which will take place starting with the next round of exams in November, will make it more affordable for students in low-income households around the world to take more tests, she said.
This past year, about 90,000 U.S. students took subject-area IB exams, according to the organization. In the U.S., the IB program is dwarfed by the Advanced Placement program: more than 2.5 million took AP exams in 2018.
Kumari hopes that lowering the cost of test-taking will also make the IB more competitive among college-preparatory programs in the U.S. and other countries. Between the registration fee and the individual test fee, the full cost of taking the first IB exam used to be $291—almost three times as much as the cost of one AP exam.
“We wanted to make it equivalent for the student to make a choice,” she said.
Not all students pay the sticker price for IB exams: States have the option to use federal money to subsidize AP and IB tests for low-income students. But states can only use this money to cover the cost of the test, not the registration fee, said Kumari. So this financial burden was passed on to students, or to their schools or districts.
Changes that streamlined the testing administration process have made it possible for the IB to weather the loss of the registration fees, Kumari said. Over the past 10 years, the organization has automated much of its test grading. Before, for example, IB used to ship paper copies of tests to graders in other countries. Now, most of the assessments are now transferred electronically.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.