Free ACT exam a thing of the past for thousands of Missouri students

Many of us remember the daunting task of getting up early in the morning, scrounging for pencils, erasers and a calculator before heading to a testing center to take the ACT. For some high school students now, that could be more of a challenge than they expected. The state of Missouri made a $4 million budget cut to assessment funding, making it impossible to fund the free ACT testing for high school juniors.

For the previous three years, 2015 – 2017, the state provided all high school juniors in Missouri an opportunity to take the ACT free of charge. Many districts use this exam to help provide a clear snapshot of the students’ college readiness. The question of whether the discontinued funding will decrease the number of students taking the ACT remains to be seen.

“Before the state started funding the ACT for juniors, participation was already high at about 64 percent of the graduating class,” said Sarah Potter, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Communications Coordinator. “There could potentially be some students who would have received a score with the state-funded test that may not take it in 2018, but we won’t know that until next year.”

The ACT costs approximately $46 without the writing component, or $62.50 with the writing component.

 “There are fee waivers from ACT for families that can’t afford to pay for the exam,” Potter said.

The ACT offers fee waivers for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches that districts can request. With the state no longer providing the ACT free, districts are left to decide what to do.

 “Last month the board took action to pay for the ACT test for all juniors who wished to take the test,” said Chris Felmlee, Southern Boone R-1 School District Superintendent. The reported cost to cover providing the ACT will be $6,000 if every junior in the district takes the test.

“We are also providing the ASVAB test and making this available to all juniors too this year,” Felmlee said.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a multi-aptitude test that examines abilities and predicts future academic and occupational success in the military. This test is free to the Southern Boone School District.

As Missouri handles the large sum of budget cuts, many schools are stepping up to fill the gap for their students, as well as expand efforts to provide adequate testing for every student. The ACT will be free through the remainder of 2017.