The Rise and Fall of the College Board

Isabella Rees, Journalist

Most of us have been there: cramped in some school’s gymnasium under suffocating fluorescent lights with the weight of your potential college career resting on the fate of a 3-hour standardized test. The Scholastic Assessment/Aptitude Test, otherwise known as the SAT, has been the focal point of every students’ academic nightmare since it became widely used within the college application process. However, controversy against the College Board, the company owning and creating the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) tests, continues to grow as those involved in educational processes begin to see how deep-rooted the company has become in society. 

To really grasp how integrated the College Board is, we first need to consider its origins. The “not-for-profit” organization was formed in 1900 with the goal of bringing order to college admissions, which at the time were chaotic and inefficient. Current AP teacher at Ipswich High School, David Wood states, “I think it’s [Ipswich’s use of College Board tools] a mostly positive impact.” When we look at how the College Board implements its resources to the application process, their previous mission has been upheld. Nonetheless, since higher education was more of a privilege during the College Board’s founding, we can only assume that as the popularity of pursuing higher education grew, the application process developed with it. This is evident today, with many colleges beginning to explore test-optional routes beginning with SAT testing suspension during the pandemic.

Another arising controversy surrounding the College Board is its “not-for-profit organization” label. Under the national tax code, CB is legally considered to be a non-profit. However, the College Board makes approximately $840 million annually. Their source of income comes primarily from AP tests, SAT tests, and training for potential AP teachers. For example, an integral part of one’s college application revolves around their SAT score. The SAT costs $55, a cost that may not be affordable for some. Specifically, one in four students used a fee waiver to take the test in 2017, meaning 25% of students are legally unable to afford the cost of the test. Especially since it’s essential, most students even end up taking the SAT more than once. Three-time SAT test taker Elizabeth Linkletter says, “The SAT, I feel like, is stupid. The more I’ve taken it, the more I’ve thought ‘this is pointless.’ I just think it’s not how we should determine our intelligence.” With both colleges, students, and parents questioning the validity and worth of the College Board’s resources, we can predict that the company is beginning to lose its hold on the college admissions process.

Although there are many flaws within the College Board, it is important we acknowledge the good. For example, AP classes are accessible in many schools and therefore allow for academically-inclined students to be able to push themselves and possibly earn college credit for their accomplishments. By offering college-level classes at the high school level, students are able to prepare themselves for college curriculum and rigor, which can positively impact their future academic success. However, to ensure a coherent transition from high school to college with student success in mind, the College Board has some work to do.