Welcome to College Board Monopoly, the fast paced college admissions game where players compete to accumulate as many application properties as possible. Along the way the players take chances on SAT Subject tests, score rushing, and difficult AP classes. But one thing is for sure, the Board holds the cards in this game, and like the Bank of Classic Monopoly, the Board never goes broke.
The College Board is a nonprofit organization which is famous for administering the Advanced Placement Exams, the SATs and other college admission programs. Even after they’re in college, many students take the College Board’s CLEP Tests to get credit for subjects they already know. Students spent roughly $695,000,000 on the College Board in 2011. That’s enough money to pay for 13.9 million SAT Tests, or pay for a four year degree at the University of Washington more than 6000 times.
The College Board often comes under fire as abusing their status as nonprofit because The Americans For Educational Testing Reform (AETR) have made it their mission to have the College Board’s nonprofit status overturned along with that of ACT Inc., which runs the ACT Tests, and Educational Testing Services (ETS), which administers many standardized tests at the college level.
As the AETR website explains, “College Board earned profits of 8.6% in 2009 – profits that would be respectable for a for-profit company. When a non-profit company is earning those profits, something is wrong.”
According to College Board’s IRS Form 990 (their tax documents), they netted a $59 million profit in 2011, despite maintaining their status as a non-profit.
The AETR also takes issue with the College Board for paying their executives so highly. The College Board pays it’s CEO far more than the American Red Cross (another major nonprofit), which, according to the AETR, is unjustified given their high testing fees.
“CEO Gaston Caperton is being compensated $872,061 per year. That is more than twice the President of the United States’s annual salary of $400,000,” AETR writes. “College Board’s 23 executives make an average of $355,271 per year. These salaries are far too high for a non-profit company.”
The College Board does use some revenue for fee waivers for low income students. Any student who receives free and reduced lunch can take the SAT twice for free, and can receive waivers for subject tests and AP tests as well.
College Board: One Stop Shop, or Monopoly?
Looking back through history, the United States have frequently broken up companies that formed monopolies to prevent them from having too much power, like the Standard Oil Company. Despite this, the College Board, a private company, controls most of the programs that high school students use to enter college. Many students are concerned that the College Board has too much power and could abuse it.
“I feel they have monopolized the standardized testing industry and are poised to run amok with it,” said Aviation High School senior Jake Hecla. “Where there is no competition, greed thrives.”
As a college prep school, it’s important that AHS offers AP classes because colleges want to see students who take challenging classes. However, this leaves students with fewer options, which can be challenging.
“From appearances, I think the College Board mirrors a monopolistic practice, said
Bruce Kelly. “I am not aware of other alternatives outside of AP and IB [International
Baccalaureate] that are so widely recognized for rigor and readily accepted by universities.
Is there another alternative that could demonstrate that?
AHS is required to report these scores in terms of how many people took them and how
many passed as part of a school performance report. This means that Aviation needs to not
only offer the exams, but also do well on them.
“My mind is interested in trends, where are we moving?,” said Kelly. “Just a single data
point doesn’t say a lot.”
The College Board declined to comment.