Posted on October 10, 2017
LITTLE ROCK — Transforming Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education requires increased utilization of available education resources and programs, such as ACT fee waivers.
ACT fee waivers give economically-disadvantaged students additional opportunities to take the college-entrance exam for free and potentially increase their score. Increased scores improve access to scholarship and higher education opportunities.
ACT data show an increase in students’ composite scores the more times the test is taken. According to ACT, the average composite score of 2017 Arkansas graduates (including public and private school graduates) who took the test two or more times was 21.1, compared to 16.5 for graduates who took the test one time.
The use of fee waivers, however, is consistently underutilized in Arkansas. During the 2016-2017 school year, ACT issued 14,770 test fee waivers to qualified Arkansas students; however, 3,451 students, or 23 percent, did not take advantage of this opportunity to test for free.
“We at the department want to ensure that all districts are aware of the availability of these fee waivers,” said Stacy Smith, the Arkansas Department of Education assistant commissioner of Learning Services. “ACT fee waivers help close the equity gap by allowing economically-disadvantaged students the opportunity to take the test multiple times. The waivers not only allow students to take the test for free, they give students access to online ACT preparation materials. Because students can have their score sent to multiple colleges and universities, enhanced opportunities for scholarships to technical schools, trade schools and universities exist, with some schools waiving the application fee.”
All Arkansas public school students have the opportunity to take the ACT for free during the spring of their junior year when the state pays for and administers the test. Additional tests, which cost $46 without the writing component, are paid for by students. For economically-disadvantaged juniors and seniors, however, fee waivers give them the opportunity to take the ACT at no cost on a national test day. Eligible students can utilize up to two waivers to take the ACT. These waivers also give students access to ACT Kaplan Online Prep Live, an online prep program students can use to prepare for the upcoming test.
While students cannot request a fee waiver directly from ACT, students are encouraged to coordinate with their high school counselor, who can determine eligibility for the waivers. Schools that qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision are still required to determine eligibility requirements for qualifying students.
In order for schools to take advantage of the fee waivers for the Dec. 9 ACT testing date, it is important for students to register for the test using the waivers as soon as possible. The registration deadline is Nov. 3. Registering early gives students more time to access the online preparation materials and gives schools the opportunity to help students better prepare for the exam.
To learn more about the fee waiver eligibility requirements and to see the upcoming testing dates, visit http://adecm.arkansas.gov/ViewApprovedMemo.aspx?Id=3392.