The non-profit organization changing for profit

The financial and social troubles plaguing College Board


Students just completing the SAT. Photo courtesy UGA CAES/Extension via Creative Commons.

Emma Kelly, Author

In 1899 the non-profit organization, currently known as College Board, was founded under the title of College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). A short 27 years following that, the first fee-based Scholar Aptitude Test (SAT) was administered and began its life as a staple in United States higher education. Since then, the organization has become increasingly more “spending in, profit out” conscience as they continue to grow with over two million students taking the SAT as of  2018. Whether it be through curriculum changes or changing exam scoring standards, College Board is constantly adjusting their business to maintain a steady profit and enduring backlash all the while.

It is no secret that AP classes and SAT/ACT exams are extremely popular among students, particularly at schools like Battlefield, known for academically high achieving students. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in the 2016 fiscal year, the organization filed a tax income form publically detailing their 900,870,083 dollar program service revenue. Among this revenue, about 400 million dollars came from AP and instruction, 300 million dollars from assessments like the SAT and ACT, 90 million dollars from college opportunities and enrollment, and 21 million dollars from other services. 

Aside from petty social media posts and submitted definitions on Urban Dictionary, there is a plethora of very serious people trying to prove the alleged injustice of College Board’s profitable operations. One example being a blog called, Mercedes Schneider’s Blog: Mostly Education, with a Smattering of Politics and Pinch of Personal.  In a post entitled, The College Board “Nonprofit”: Oh, the Money One Can Make!, the author says, “The College Board is actually a nonprofit entity (EIN 13-1623965), but don’t let that fool you. The money is a-flowing, and for College Board’s top admin, testing is turning out to be quite the lucrative racket.” The author then continues by listing all of the highest paid executives in the organization. This particular blog also has over 30 articles criticizing actions of College Board dating all the way back to 2013.

Many students enroll in AP courses not for the intellectual benefit, but rather for the possibility of GPA and college credit opportunities. Although there are plenty of AP students who thrive off the enjoyment of a more rigorous and in depth curriculum, a vast majority are simply in search of a five point class to raise their GPA and/or a passing AP exam score that will equate to college credit in the future. Battlefield junior, Emma Patane, says, “I would not take AP classes if I did not have the opportunity to receive a college credit, because AP classes are challenging, stressful, and time consuming.” She explains that she is personally taking two AP classes this school year and further states, “I do not see the point in taking a class of such intensity, if I am not interested in the material being discussed and if I do not have the opportunity to earn a college credit.” Viewpoints like hers are extremely prevalent among AP students looking to save money in college. However, this in turn, directly leads to the profit of College Board that is seemingly upsetting to some members of the academic community. 

Because of discontent towards their operations and alternate options such as Dual Enrollment and Honors classes, College Board is making changes to their courses in order to try an entice more students to enroll. In the case of AP World History, the curriculum’s dates covered has been cut in half starting this year. Another instance being, the change of AP Language and Composition’s writing rubric, making it easier for students to receive higher scores on the exam. According to the College Board’s public summary reports, both of the offered English courses experienced zero growth in the amount of exams taken in the  2017-2018 year. This creates a clear connection as to why they might have made it easier to pass, considering almost all of the other exams experience annual growth. 

While some publicly resent College Board’s ethics, others see value in the elevated rigor it provides to eager students. Battlefield Math teacher, Dawn Weber, who teaches AP Calculus explains, I believe there is a great value in taking an AP class if the student has a true interest in the subject. The workload is extremely demanding and students should expect to spend time each night studying, practicing and reviewing. If a student enjoys the subject they will appreciate the opportunity to expand their knowledge. Being able to earn college credit is a huge plus. It helps financially, and for some, it takes care of college graduation requirements.” Although they are making changes, College Board still appears to be setting high academic standards for American students, and they will most likely continue to monopolize and profit off their unique industry for years to come.