College Board Con

The College Board exacerbates exam costs and exploits children for money


Craig Eddy

“Mr. Moneybags” greedily grasps a bag of cash. Similarly, the College Board takes as much money from students as possible, doing everything from overcharging students in the first place to instituting fees for students who don’t have the financial resources to pay for exams in November.

In early November, I sat in Ms. Fay’s classroom as she gave the class a casual reminder for us to sign up for our AP exams. A few days later, I noticed my peers carefully checking over their forms and counting their money, making sure everything was in perfect order for the tests they wouldn’t be taking for another six months. Unlike most of my classmates, I wasn’t yet turning in my registration forms and exam fees. I wouldn’t be doing so until four months later. It wasn’t that I was still deciding whether or not I wanted to take any AP tests; I’m enrolled in four AP classes and I would take each exam if it were a possibility.

But because of a decision made by the College Board, it isn’t.

The College Board recently moved the AP exam registration deadline to November. Last year, the deadline was March. Students can still sign up for exams past November, but there’s a catch; for students signing up any time after Nov. 15, there is an additional $40 fee for each exam a student is taking. There is a 42 percent increase in the cost of exams for students whose families, like mine, didn’t have a few hundred extra dollars to spend a month before Christmas, when money is often tight anyway. 

This fee was introduced for the purpose of encouraging students to sign up earlier because they tend to perform better when they do. But despite the College Board’s act of being a charitable organization that wants students to succeed, it cares nothing of students’ success.

This fee is not an encouragement to sign up early, it’s a punishment for students who don’t have the financial means available to do so, a way to keep low-income students from getting the same opportunities as those with more economic privilege. 

I wouldn’t take issue with the $40 fee if the College Board needed the extra money, but the fact of the matter is: it doesn’t. I wouldn’t detest its actions if they were being made for the benefit of students, but they aren’t. The College Board claims students who sign up earlier tend to perform better, but this doesn’t seem like nearly enough evidence to warrant a 42 percent increase in the cost of exams.

On the College Board’s official website, a message reads, “We’re a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success.”

The College Board is mission-driven, there’s no doubt about it. Its mission just isn’t the one it advertises; its true mission is as simple as it is unethical. The College Board’s goal is to make more money, to manipulate children into thinking they need to take a test to be successful, to exploit students who don’t have the resources to pay early on and make them pay even more in the long run.

As if that weren’t enough, the organization brings in a hefty amount of extra money each year, despite its technical non-profit status (the status that exempts the College Board from taxes and allows them to greedily grasp onto even more money spent lining their pockets.)

In 2017, the College Board had $139 million left over after expenses. However, because it spent $923 million of its $1.01 billion in revenue furthering its purpose and expanding the public benefit it provides, the College Board is allowed to keep its non-profit title, to continue making non-taxable money by exploiting teenagers with high exam costs and exorbitant fees.

While all of this is definitely bad on its own, the thing that really irks me, creams my corn, if you will, is the intolerably excessive amount of money College Board executives make. In 2016, College Board President David Coleman brought home a hefty $1.2 million salary, with an extra $512 thousand in benefits. For reference, the average non-profit president’s salary is somewhere around $90,000. In 2016, our lovely friend Mr. Coleman made over 10 times the salary of a person with a similar position, all for being in charge of a company that exploits children and holds a monopoly on standardized tests (everything except the ACT of course!).

    And Dave’s buddies, his partners-in-crime (or as I like to say, his partners-in-what-should-maybe-be-illegal-and-is-at-the-very-least-immoral), definitely have nothing to complain about. In 2016, 20 chief College Board executives (not including Coleman) made a combined $9.83 million.

So now that the information is on the table, what happens next? In a world where greed is prevalent and corruption is inevitable, can we even make a difference? Boycotting the College Board isn’t practical; the SAT is required for some colleges and AP exams can help lower the cost of college in the long run, so, as students, what can we do? 

For me, the answer is simple. I sit here writing this editorial in hopes that I will make a difference, that I’ll inspire others to do the same. The easiest thing to do is use your voice. Don’t be complaisant: get angry, get loud, and make your voice heard.