Without paying a dime for it, the United States Congress can cause colleges across the country — maybe not all but most — to write off the cost in tuition to students for at least a few percent, on average, of a college degree, and the colleges don’t have to pay a dime either (though they would lose a bit of income, they would also shed a corresponding amount of expense).
This one neat trick: Pass a bill that requires any accredited college or university that gets federal funds (which means almost all of them) to award credit equal to a semester of lower division study for the passage by a student of an AP exam at a level of 3 or above.
AP tests can equal credit in a given college or university, and also normally meet a requirement, depending and with conditions. But many colleges restrict the award of credit to certain numbers of credits, require a 4 or 5 and eschew the 3, or may have other restrictions. That AP credit gap can be closed with the simple passage of a bill.
To be fair and to maintain quality education, colleges may still have to have restrictions. A student with a potential 12 AP credits in a single Liberal Arts requirement category at a given college that demands 8 credits would have to put 4 credits against lower division electives, for example. You can’t go to college and get 120 credits of “Golf” and graduate. But for the most part, students who take a lot of AP classes will have a broad distribution across topics, if for no other reason than that high schools tend to build their AP programs much like one is forced to build houses and hotels on Monopoly game properties. If you don’t know how that works, go play a game of Monopoly.
I really have no idea how much of an effect this would have. There are changes over time in how AP helps students. But the utility of the various AP programs can be secured and probably increased for many students if colleges and universities were somehow required to allow students to take fullest reasonable advantage of them.
That’s the free version. A less free version would also have the US Department of Education, once it is out from under the Thumb of Trump, help high schools to develop more AP classes or to do similar work to help students who are heading for college end up there with a better head start.