(Photo illustration by Audrey Van)
Fountain Valley High School

Opinion: The College Board is a corrupt, monopolistic money scheme

In America, the pressure for college grows every year with the college admissions process increasing in expectations. Getting a decent college education forces high school students to pull out all the stops and turn to a wolf in sheep’s clothing: the College Board.

The College Board, founded in 1900, is a nonprofit organization designed to provide high school students opportunities to get into their dream college, according to their website. They offer students three products to improve their college applications, all of which come with a fee, of course — Advanced Placement exams, the SAT and SAT subject tests.

What started as a well-intentioned partnership with universities across America and high schools to provide opportunities for acceptance has manifested into intense competition between students to take the most AP classes and get the highest SAT scores. It all boils down to getting into a good university, but at extreme measures that keep the College Board thriving.

One of those measures is money. Students invest an insane amount of money into the College Board’s products.

AP exams, depending on the school, cost around $94 and are $102 at Fountain Valley High School. The SAT costs $47.50 without the essay and $64.50 with the essay.

Most competitive colleges require SAT subject tests, which showcase a student’s strength in a particular subject. The baseline fee for one subject test is $26 and additional tests are $22 each. A language subject test with a listening section is $26.

Students aiming to get into competitive colleges invest in all three of these exams. Not only that, many students take the SAT two to three times. They also take two to three subject tests and many AP exams to improve their college resume. All that money goes into the pockets of the College Board.

It’s not only these exams that students and parents have to pay for. Many are under the impression that the College Board’s products equate to success, so they turn to tutors and preparation classes that charge thousands of dollars.

The dependence and trust that students and colleges have for the College Board are further incentive for the organization to corrupt the admissions process.

For instance, the College Board proposed to implement an adversity score for the SAT last year, a plan that they removed after heavy criticism. The adversity score was meant to contextualize students’ SAT scores by evaluating their socioeconomic standing into one number.

The adversity score is murky in that the means to assess a students’ “adversity” are unreliable. It’s difficult to factor a student’s environment in a systematic way, and into one number that students themselves can’t access.

For students that are considered to be in a better socioeconomic situation, their chances at getting into college may become more difficult because universities are looking to have more diversity and equality. As a result, such students may depend on more College Board products to decorate their college application and compensate for their adversity score.

The College Board has replaced the adversity score with a tool called Landscape, which provides colleges information on a student’s high school and neighborhood. Landscape does not condense this information into one “score”. Students will be able to access information from Landscape with a College Board account.

This year, the organization also pushed the registration dates up. Students in AP classes must register for AP exams in October, whereas in the past years AP registration took place early in the spring semester. According to Inside Higher Ed, the College Board reasons that fall registration is to ensure that students work harder in their classes and commit to taking the exams.

But let’s be honest, the early registration creates financial burdens and forces students to make decisions too soon. This is, unsurprisingly, the College Board’s attempt to get richer.

Of course, the College Board does give scholarships offered for academic achievements such as getting a high score on the PSAT, another exam offered by the nonprofit. However, giving away a few million in scholarships to students isn’t even close in comparison to what College Board gets from the millions of students who take AP exams, the SAT and SAT subject tests every year.

It’s easier to call the College Board for what it truly is: a business. The College Board is the opposite of what it claims to be and takes advantage of the importance of a college education in today’s society by making students dependent on its products.

1 Comment

  • Reply Carly Witteman December 4, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Though I somewhat agree with you, I have to say that the College Board isn’t keeping 100% of the money made off of test fees. They must hire hundreds, if not thousands of people, to grade these exams in a fairly and timely manner and hand them a paycheck once they do so. For example, with each AP test, the College Board hires at least one hundred teachers of that particular class to be flown to a certain location (all expenses paid) in order to grade these tests. I don’t think it’s 100% accurate or fair to say they’re an evil, corrupt machine when they actually do have justifications for test fees.


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