Controversies Behind the College Board


Photo Illustrated by Audrey Van

Students worldwide are upset about the issues surrounding the College Board.

Anita Tun, Photojournalist

The College Board claims to be a “not-for-profit organization” and administers AP tests and SATs to students worldwide. However, the organization has received extreme backlash from students due to various issues and scandals behind the College Board. Therefore, the goal of helping students pursue a more rigorous course that promotes college-readiness has altered drastically due to their new plan. Since the College Board is a significant part that runs the education and college admissions system, numerous students participate in taking AP courses and the SAT for students to get into their desired schools.

First, the College Board is a “not-for-profit organization” under the national tax code. However, in 2017 the College Board made approximately one billion dollars in revenue and made about $139 million in profits (Financial Samurai). Although students may not approve of this, millions continue to compete in the organization to appeal to colleges as a student that is academically ready and takes rigorous courses. 

People are outraged by the excessive cost of exams that the College Board offers, such as an SAT costing $50 and $65, including an essay, “Let’s say you wanted to challenge yourself in your junior year like I did. You wanted to show to colleges that you strived to be top of your class or at least try to be” Audrey Lee (12).

The SAT subject tests vary from $22 to $26 with a registration fee of $26. With prestigious universities typically requiring one to three SAT subject tests to be eligible or another alternative that demonstrates the intelligence of a student to stand out, this problem becomes very costly. Also, every score report sent to a college costs $11.25; therefore, if a student were to apply to ten schools, they would need to pay $112.50 total. Furthermore, the Student Answer Service (SAS) is a $13.50 service that allows students to know what question they got wrong and right on the SAT and provides a loose description of what type of questions they missed. 

Another problematic issue is that SATs are never on the same level of difficulty, and scores vary depending on different test dates. For instance, the June 2018 SAT was considered easier than previous tests; therefore, the exam curve was extreme. One missed question on the math section of the exam brought one’s score down to a 770 when students can usually miss one or two questions and still receive an 800, which is a perfect score. The way the College Board curves the test is based on how they personally thought how difficult the exam was, not based on how everybody else did. In the August 2018 SAT test date, the College Board reused a previous international SAT. Due to answers being on the internet for SAT test prep, students had a clear advantage of receiving a better score (Elite Educational Institute). 

When the College Board gives out tests, students are given the option to check for “Student Search Service,” which associates them with educational and scholarship opportunities. This is another tactic the College Board uses to earn money. On the College Board website, it demonstrates rates colleges can pay to receive student information, which is an unexpected invasion of student privacy for those that were unaware of the consequences when they chose to sign up. 

In addition, one AP test costs $94, and Audrey adds the issue of having to pay for AP exams earlier this year, “October comes around, and you forget that you have to pay $94 before colleges even acknowledge that you took a college-level course. You have barely even reached UNIT 3 by the time you have to decide. And of course, no refunds because apparently, money isn’t important to them, especially with them being for not-for-profit organizations.” After paying hundreds of dollars for all these exams, college credit is not guaranteed since a three or higher is accepted among colleges to obtain college credit. Yet, select colleges, typically prestigious universities or colleges out of the United States, require a person to receive a four or five on the AP exam or may not accept AP credit at all. 

Due to COVID-19, unexpected changes arose for 2020 AP testing since students could not take the exams at school. Therefore, the College Board created a new format that students would take a 45-minute exam. The number of questions varied among exams; however, many only had around two questions that determined if the student passed or failed which Audrey adds, “when we took the 45-minute exams online this past May, my patience was gone. (By the way, nope, we did not get a discount) Do you know how easy it is to make a mistake on a 7 part FRQ? (VERY EASY). First, you feel rushed. Then, you have to worry about submitting with the screen blinking red and counting the seconds down as you try to focus on the last couple of parts of the question. But not only that. We also had only one topic tested on for some tests.” Students were furious as they felt it was unjust that two questions do not represent a year of learning and should not determine their score. 

Since the College Board persevered to prevent cheating, students would be taking their exams simultaneously depending on the subject, so answers would not be leaked on the internet. Despite international students spending $123 for each exam, some were required to take their exam at an unconventional time such as 3 am, in the middle of the night. Another issue was that the College Board would post fake answers on the internet to catch cheaters and cancel their scores. This action the College Board is utilizing is called entrapment, and specifically, child entrapment, which is considered a crime. 

Also, the College Board has not fixed the advantage they give towards financially stable and privileged students. Before the College Board gave out video summaries to ease the circumstances of COVID-19, the College Board did not have free physical resources for students to study from. Students typically pay for test books and prep courses that average around $25 per book. This gave a disadvantage to underprivileged students who could not financially afford not only paying for an exam but also a test book to prepare.

Although the College Board’s original intention is to allow students to pursue a course load that prepares them for college, it is now unclear if the College Board stays true to their goal. Instead, it seems that this “not-for-profit organization” runs a business that monopolizes off of students not having a choice to participate if they want to appeal to colleges.