08/12/2014 02:55 EDT | Updated 10/12/2014 05:59 EDT

States get $28M in grants to help reduce advanced placement exam costs for low-income students

WASHINGTON - The Education Department said Tuesday that it was awarding $28.4 million in grants to 40 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands to reduce the cost of advanced placement exams for low-income students.

The department said the reduced cost will encourage low-income and first-generation students to take the exams. Students who pass the test could earn college credit, reducing the time and cost for a post-secondary degree.

Some students could pay as little as $18 for an exam, or less when coupled with other subsidizes. Without the grants, some advanced placement tests cost nearly $100.

"We recognize that there's still a gap in educational opportunities for low-income and minority students and their more advantaged peers, including when it comes to accessing rigorous course work that is aimed at preparing them for college and the workforce," Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle said during a briefing.

The program helps to cover fees for advanced placement tests that will be taken in May 2015 and are administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations, the department said.

The amount of aid was determined by the state's estimated number of tests that would be taken by low-income students.

The department helped offset costs for more than 769,000 exams in 2014, Delisle said.

An annual report by College Board said students who earn a 3 or higher on an AP exam typically earn higher GPAs in college, have a higher graduation rate and are more likely to graduate within five years.