Members of the Utah House voted Thursday in favor of a bill that provides funding for low-income students to take Advanced Placement tests.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to provide financial assistance to low-income students in Advanced Placement courses passed both chambers of the Legislature on Thursday.

SB140 was approved by a 65-4 vote of the House and a 28-0 vote of the Senate. The bill calls for a $100,000 appropriation to cover the costs of an AP test for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, said some students are dissuaded from taking AP tests — which award college credit to high school students — due to the cost, despite completing the rigorous coursework of an AP class.

Low-income students are currently offered a discount on AP tests by the College Board, which administers AP testing, and the bill would cover the remaining balance for certain eligible students.

"What we’re talking about with this legislation is access to the test and how we’re going to facilitate that for some students who might pass on taking the test because of finances," Menlove said.

Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, questioned the efficacy of AP coursework. He gave the example of his own children, whose AP credits were accepted only as elective credits and not as part of their major coursework in college, and asked whether AP tests were as advantageous as most parents believe.

Kennedy said he supports the concept of SB140 but asked his colleagues to consider "whether the AP credits are doing for our higher education community what we think they’re doing."

But Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said independent of whether AP credits are applied toward a major, or whether a student passes the test at all, participation in Advanced Placement provides a semester or year of rigorous coursework that encourages students to consider their plans for higher education.

"Just because in some situations some students are not able to graduate earlier, really to me has very little to do with what we’re talking about here," Arent said. "We want all students to have the advantage of taking these courses."

The bill will now go before Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

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