The College Board’s “Non-Profit” Monopoly on Student Anxiety

Arik Kraft, Sports Editor

The notorious College Board, responsible for the SAT, Advanced Placement (AP) classes and AP exams, generates over 1.5 billion dollars every year, according to ProPublica. This “nonprofit” organization has 501(c)(3) status, which is only given to charitable organizations that do not use their profits for personal gain, exempting it from any federal taxation. However, the College Board’s methods of gaining money and its allocation of those funds should challenge the organization’s status as a nonprofit.

At the heart of the College Board’s monetarily-motivated schemes are the obscene prices for their testing. The SAT registration price is $60, excluding any extra fees. AP exams are $96 when directly purchased from the College Board. However, most schools require students to purchase tests through their individual school, leading to increased costs due to additional fees for proctors and testing spaces. The organization does offer financial aid, but test takers are not exempt from all costs — the reduced price is $35 per AP exam. 

If the College Board is truly a nonprofit organization with the purpose of providing support to high school students, shouldn’t testing be free or at least significantly less expensive for all students?

In their mission statement, the College Board claims to be “dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education.” However, the College Board falls significantly short of this ideal. The substantial testing fees make College Board exams less accessible to lower income families, favoring wealthier students.

“The College Board, which is supposed to be helping us, is actually taking advantage of the students,” a Pali student who requested anonymity said. “They’re deliberately causing an unequal battlefield.”

While the College Board is collecting abundant amounts of money from testing fees, they have yet to improve any aspect of high school education. AP classes are designed so that students pay for a test at the end of the year; otherwise, they will not earn college credit for the class. With the allure of raising GPAs, AP classes have become a staple at many high schools, with millions of students pressured to pay for exams.

Pali AP English teacher Stephen Klima said, “It should be about learning new things, not ‘let’s teach for a test.’”

Not only do the College Board’s claims of equity fall short, but so do its hopes of “promoting excellence.” Unless their idea of excellence in education is immense student anxiety, they are not succeeding. There is so much pressure to take AP courses, only to be overwhelmed by endless work and intensified fears of college rejection.

“Many students, including myself, have fallen prey to the idea that the only good choice after high school is to go to college,” a student who requested anonymity said. “The College Board has made us believe that the only way to do this is by taking a bunch of APs, stressing and spending all of our time working on them.” 

“I think it’s a scam,” Klima said. “I think it’s way too much money, and there’s too much pressure on kids. I try to prepare my students for the test but also want to make it the least stressful environment possible.”

But it doesn’t end there. In addition to causing anxiety, the College Board exploits students by selling their information, according to published reports. Prior to taking standardized tests, students complete optional surveys responding to questions regarding their personal background and college aspirations, handing over their personal information in the process. According to the Wall Street Journal, the College Board sells student data for 47 cents per name. The information can vary but often include name, ethnicity and test scores. However, the questions are frequently more in-depth, including high school activities students partake in and their parents’ levels of education.

According to the College Board Privacy Center, the “College Board does not sell student information; however, qualified colleges, universities … do pay a license fee to use this information to recruit students.” 

This statement contradicts itself: First, the College Board claims not to sell information, but then it says that “qualified” schools can pay for it, highlighting the College Board’s hypocrisy.

“The fact that they’re selling [student information] and making a profit off of it is ridiculous,” Klima said. “There should have been a disclaimer explaining that to students.”

Recently, the College Board was exposed for manipulating its curriculum to incentivize more students to pay for AP exams. In the newly created AP African American Studies course, proposed subject material was significantly altered after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis threatened to ban the class in his state. According to the New York Times, many Black writers or scholars associated with critical race theory, LGBTQ+ topics, Black feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement were removed from the curriculum. These topics now remain optional, meaning teachers may introduce the information, but the material is not incorporated into the AP exam. 

While the College Board claims that they had planned to remove “sensitive” topics from the curriculum beforehand, this just shows the College Board’s disregard for educational integrity. They removed important parts of the course just to appease Florida’s government and maintain support for their exams, for fear of losing money.

The College Board obviously prioritizes money over students’ education. They claim to want to help students, but only do the opposite; they cause immeasurable stress with extremely expensive tests just to sell data to colleges in order to make every penny possible.