The Iron Fist: A look into College Board’s control over the college admissions process

By: Hannah Bonanducci

For most of the people reading this, you’re a student at Eastern University that has, in some form or another, interacted with College Board. AP classes and tests, the PSAT, SAT and so on are almost inevitable for any high school student looking to enter college. However, with a lot of schools going test-optional (especially because of COVID), it may be time to re-evaluate the grip that College Board has on high school students and the college admissions process.

In 2019, a lawsuit was filed against the University of California for requiring students to submit SAT and ACT scores for admission. According to Forbes, those filing claimed that “the tests were biased and [didn’t] predict a student’s potential success.” Multiple studies analyzing SAT test scores strongly supported this theory, with large score gaps (over a 200-point difference) between Asian and White students compared to all other test takers. It was also found that those with a lower family income ($20,000) scored the lowest compared to those with a higher family income ($200,000) who generally always scored highest.

Even more concerning than the very obvious inability to accurately represent all groups in “standardized” testing is the profit being made off of these young students. For a “non-profit” organization that is funded by the government, College Board’s profit for the 2021 tax year was $242 million according to Total Registration. This is on top of the estimated $837 million to $1.32 billion being sent as hedge fund investments and secret accounts to the Caribbean and Mauritius since 2011. 

Meanwhile, the cost of testing is only going up. This year’s high school juniors and seniors will be paying $60 to take the SAT (which they probably already prepared for by taking the $18 PSAT). If they want to see which answers they got wrong, there’s another $16. To make sure their scores are actually correct, that’s $55. And if they want to actually USE their scores? They get four free score sends, and then they must pay $12 for every other place they send it to. 

However, even with the four free score sends, College Board encourages students to send scores to more than four colleges on their website. And on top of that, your four free score sends expire within nine days after the test. But as a junior taking the SAT, you won’t be sending those scores until your senior year when those free score sends will no longer be available. 

College Board is one of the biggest contributors to the narrative of how much you should buy their products. The College Board website suggests that a student should take the SAT twice, rather than taking it once as an honest judgment of your knowledge (which isn’t really an accurate representation of the ability to succeed in the first place). The push to take AP classes is found almost anywhere, despite many arguing against their effectiveness. 

A possible redeeming quality, however, comes into their newly launched BigFutures program, a free program available to all students that offer scholarships and guidance in the college application process. As a first-generation college student and a student ambassador for the program, I always refer to it when helping students through the college application process.

The program starts during the junior year of high school and keeps students on track with crucial parts of the application process, like choosing colleges and taking the SAT. It also offers free tools such as one of the most advanced college information lists, free personalized study materials for the SAT and even free access to an advanced textbot that helps families complete the FAFSA. 

Oh, and it also offers monthly $40,000 scholarship drawings for students who complete each step in the process, with low-income families receiving an additional drawing in the pool each month. Through this program, College Board is giving a lot back to the students. 

College Board is a necessary part of the college application process, but their clear disadvantages and questionable profits lead many to wonder if intervention needs to occur. This seems to have already taken place as many colleges have started going test-optional and as more criticism comes from teachers, students and admissions counselors regarding optional materials like AP testing and courses. College Board’s power is and should remain an ongoing conversation in the academic community as we seek to give equal opportunities to all students seeking higher education in America.


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