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College Board needs to get their act together

PhlexatonyPhil · other · opinion · 11/09/2020

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Most teachers, counselors and students who plan to go to college are familiar with College Board. With its administration of AP Tests, PSATs, and SATs, College Board is an aspect of high school that is hard for anyone to avoid. While it provides many resources that can help prepare students for a higher education, some are critical of College Board. 

The College Board owns the Advanced Placement, or AP program. According to College Board’s website, “AP gives students the chance to tackle college-level work while they're still in high school and earn college credit and placement.” For a fee of about $100, students are able to take a test covering “college-level” curriculum that can earn them college credit, if the college accepts the test score. Many students take AP classes hoping to earn college credit without having to pay for the tuition associated with that college class.

However, some are critical of the AP program in high school because of the GPA boost associated with AP classes. Because AP classes are on a 5-point scale, instead of the normal 4 points for a general class, some students tend to fill up their schedules with AP classes, but without really being interested in learning the curriculum.

Focusing on getting an A in a class instead of learning the material seems to be a growing epidemic within education, so having an entire class dedicated to a cumulative test that one must pay to take seems to make the issue more problematic.

Another program College Board is in control of is the SAT. The SAT, and a student’s GPA, are the most important things a college takes into consideration when deciding which students to admit. College Board also offers the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE which is a financial aid application service, which some colleges require.

While the fee-based standardized test that is the SAT has a widely accepted alternative in the ACT, the services of AP exams, the SAT and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE do not have alternatives. Considering that both the SAT and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE are required by some colleges, one can see how some may view College Board as a powerful monopoly, especially when considering the cost of its services.

According to its website, College Board is a “not-for-profit organization.” However, an AP test costs $94, subject tests cost a baseline of $26 with an additional $18 for every test you take, and the SAT costs $64.50 for the full test with an additional $18 if you wish to receive your answers. It's worth noting that these prices do not include late fees, wait-list fees, and international fees, nor does it include the price of sending your scores to colleges. These added costs could easily make the price of a single test in upwards of $100. In what some may find to be an irony is that the College Board’s financial aid application service that some colleges require carries a fee of $25.

A 990 is the form a non-profit uses to report its fiscal details for the year to the IRS. According to the College Board’s 2015 990, their total revenue was $915,776,813, with expenditures, including salaries, making it $838,417,778. One would not expect a “not for profit” organization to make a profit of over 8 percent, but with a profit of $77,359,035, that’s exactly what College Board’s profit comes out to.

Not included in the reported profit is the income of their employees and executives, which falls under expenditures. For example, the president of the “not-for-profit” organization of College Board makes $1.3 million per year.

While it is fair to argue that there is nothing wrong with a organization that provides so many services to make a profit while doing so, many may agree that it is disingenuous to deem themselves a “not-for-profit” organization in the process. This is especially true when consumers consist of high schoolers who have no choice other than to use the service if they hope to attend a college in the United States. So, their profited endeavors may be more justified if they did not claim to be “not-for-profit.” If students were provided more choices and alternatives to College Board, the competition may serve to lower prices and give students more options and hopefully improve the process of getting into college.

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