A pencil rests on a Scantron sheet for a standardized test.



Opinion: The Boardwalk of Education: College Board stretches the definition of a nonprofit

College Board has profited off of students for decades, playing their organization off as a nonprofit, when the top executives are paid as much as the president of the United States is.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/alexli051705/" target="_self">Alex Li</a>

Alex Li

February 24, 2022

Do you remember the vexed faces of your friends when you collected all their money and forced them to sell all of their properties?

I’m sure the average reader coming across this article has played the childhood game of Monopoly before. The goal of the game is to simply become a monopolist or someone who controls the market for a specific good or service.

When we think of monopolists, certain infamous figures come to mind such as Rockefeller of Standard Oil who had complete control over the oil industry in the late 1800s. Nowadays, a bigger monopoly has been controlling the education industry for over a century and its name is College Board. 

College Board was founded in 1899, originally known as the College Entrance Exam Board. Its purpose was to promote college readiness and to guide the college admission process. Coincidentally, it was also founded as a nonprofit, though it raked in a mere revenue of over $1 billion in 2019 and made a net of over $55 million. Top executives are paid over $350,000 a year.

According to Cornell Law School, a nonprofit is defined as a “group organized for purposes other than generating profit and in which no part of the organization’s income is distributed to its members, directors, or officers.” College Board is stretching this definition of a nonprofit. 

Though it is not wrong for the chief executives of a nonprofit to be paid, according to salary.com, the average salary of a CEO is $175,000 dollars and falls between the range of $132,000 to $225,000. This then raises the question of why the College Board executives are paid twice the average of a regular nonprofit executive.

Aside from some questionable financial decisions, the College Board holds a monopoly on a key admissions criteria for many universities — standardized testing. College Board is one of the few organizations that are critical to college admissions and definitely the biggest. Notable institutions that come close to College Board could include the International Baccalaureate and American College Testing organizations, but even those are still far away from the dominant position College Board holds.

In the United States, 1,207 schools offer the IB program, while over 22,000 schools offer Advanced Placement courses with corresponding AP tests given by the College Board. All the while 1.7 million students are taking the ACT exams while 2.2 million students are taking the SATs. Since the College Board was the first and only testing system for decades, it would take new organizations a lot of work in order to be developed enough to match the level of the College Board.

Even though the SAT has lost prominence over the years due to the University of California schools eliminating the requirement for SAT scores in the admissions process and other schools remaining test-optional, AP exams still reign king,  as students could be paying $96 per exam throughout their whole high school experience, often taking more than one every year.

So is there anything we can do? At the moment, I don’t think so, unless every high school student in the United States decides to not take any AP or SAT tests and colleges no longer require or consider it for admissions or college credit. I propose that the government should create a college testing system, on top of the existing ones, i.e. Common Core, to replace the College Board. With this, the government could also lower the prices or even exempt the fees for taking such tests; and even if they don’t, we at least know that the money will go to public education, helping schools and students that need it, not filling the pockets of CEOs.

I am paying more than $100 this year to take one of my AP exams, and so are 2.7 million other students. This doesn’t even include the factor that we may be taking more than one test. College Board has profited off of us students for decades, playing their organization off as a nonprofit, when the top executives are getting paid as much as the president of the United States is. There is no direct way to take down this monopoly now, but as time goes on, we should take a chance, restart at “Go,” and reset the board.

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