TAMPA — How badly does Hillsborough County want high school students to take the SAT college admissions exam?
Enough to pay for it.
The district plans to offer one free test to every junior, saving families around $45. Schools will provide information on how to register soon.
Students will have the chance to take the SAT for free in the spring semester. Unfortunately, the district won't be able to provide refunds to students who already have signed up for a test.
But they can take it a second time on Hillsborough's tab.
"It's part of a culture of college readiness," district spokesman Stephen Hegarty said. "We want them to take it. Many of them take it more than once."
Colleges look closely at scores on the SAT and ACT exams when deciding which students to admit.
This year, Hillsborough has partnered with the organization that administers the SAT — the College Board — to redesign the academic experience in its middle and high schools. The free SAT comes through this partnership, known as the EXCELerator model.
Because the school district was closed Friday, the cost of offering a free test was unavailable. The program is funded largely through grants awarded to Hillsborough.
Hillsborough saw a rise in the number of juniors taking the SAT at four struggling high schools that piloted the approach last year, Hegarty said. He said students who can't afford to take the test have long been able to apply for a fee waiver.
But a free test makes it easier for everyone, including middle-class parents worrying about the additional expense of applying to college in a tough economic year.
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.