The state of Oklahoma is ready to pick up the bill for high school juniors planning to take the ACT college entrance test this year.
It's a brand-new pilot program just launched by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. The hope is that more students will have access to college now that they don't have to worry about paying for the test.
This is a $1.5-million project funded by the state department of education, and districts like Jenks Public Schools say it's something they'll likely get on board with.
For the Jenks High School juniors just starting class, the thought of college likely seems far away, but Oklahoma's new year-long pilot program could make getting a university education feel closer than ever.
“This comes at a time when we recognize that high school diplomas are no longer enough for our students,” Hofmeister said.
She estimates there are 22,000 11-graders across the state that will now be able to take the ACT when they, otherwise, might never have been able to.
The test costs about $60 and most universities require students to have taken the ACT or SAT.
Hofmeister said getting a college education is more important than ever.
“By the year 2020, 62 percent of all jobs are going to require post-secondary education,” she said.
At Jenks High School, college-prep testing is taken seriously. The district is consistently ranked in the state's top 10 high schools for ACT scores.
“In Jenks, we have the majority of our students do go on to college after high school, so it is something we are focused on, preparing those students to take that test and perform at a high level,” Bonnie Rogers said.
School districts will have the option of participating in the pilot program and even if they do, students won't be required to take the test, but now they'll have the opportunity.
“I would say that it's very likely that we will opt into this program,” Rogers said.
Hofmeister said, “We've got to do something different. We can't just hope that things change for kids, it takes action.”
Oklahoma joins 21 other states that started similar programs last year.
The state said it will let school districts know over the next several weeks how to sign up.