College Board: The Non-Profit For-Profit Money Pit


Illustration by Gabrielle Daley

The College Board has monopolized education and students’ paths to college, although it is a “non-profit” organization.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

Last year, the AP Language and Composition argumentative essay prompt was “what is something you find overrated?” Ironically, the same company that made the test is arguably the most overrated of them all. The College Board, the “non-profit” organization that sucks up millions of people’s money every year over AP classes, SATs, and preparations, has found a way to monopolize education, testing, and students’ futures. It’s everywhere – it’s worked its way into so many high schooler’s curriculums and experiences, and don’t forget… their bank accounts.

According to the College Board, 2.1 million students took the beloved SAT in 2018. The SAT costs $48 or $65 including the essay. Now don’t forget that many students pay for practice books, tutors and classes to prepare for the SAT on top of the initial cost. In addition, students in this standardized-test-loving-country pay for the SAT more than once in hopes of achieving a great score that can get them into the college of their dreams. Oh, you want to see what mistakes you made? Look at the Student Answers Service, but first, they need $18. Want to send your scores to a college? That will be $12. Also, the SAT isn’t even standardized. One test could be harder than the other, but the scores still hold the same weight. Although colleges are moving away from requiring the SAT, it’s still a critical part of the admissions process for so many students – and the College Board knows that. That’s why they make you spend hundreds of dollars on it. 

In recent years, AP classes have gained much popularity, although they were originally established by the College Board in 1955. Many schools around the country were told to increase AP enrollment to prepare students for college rigor. Over the past ten years, the number of students who’ve participated in Advanced Placement classes has increased by 70%, according to the College Board. And yes, if a student doesn’t want to spend hours studying and working in an AP class then they don’t have to sign up; however, according to US News, “Advanced Placement classes can set applicants apart in a competitive college admissions environment, demonstrating the ability to perform well on more challenging coursework.”

 Students have to spend an absurd amount of money – $94 per AP test – to sit in a freezing room for three hours to receive their score three months later. In July, students can open up the computer and see their single-digit score. No explanation. No “here’s the breakdown.” Just a single digit that was the product of a year-long course. Then, to send the AP scores to colleges, a student must spend $15 for each school. It makes sense, it must take a lot of effort to send a single digit from one computer to the next. 

As if the AP exams, SATs and SAT Subject Tests weren’t enough, the College Board is now involved in determining a student’s financial needs based on family income. The notorious College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile, asks families about how much they make from their retirement funds to the penny in their sock drawer. Most private schools need students to fill out the Board’s CSS Profile. And of course, unlike like FAFSA (the federal program all students must fill out to receive aid), to send the CSS Profile to a college, families have to pay $25 for the initial school, and $16 for every school after that. Seems like the College Board will make students pay for anything and everything, and they can because there’s no other option for students.

The extent to which the College Board will go to make money has gotten out of hand. In a 2019 Wall Street Journal article, the College Board was exposed for selling student’s personal information to elite universities for 47 cents per name. The universities then send brochures, emails, and advertisements to the students whose names they buy and invite them to their college. The students targeted by this process have no chance of getting into these schools; so when they spend around $70 on an application, they just get rejected. This makes the elite university’s acceptance rate go down and increases its number of applications. “Each year, 1,900 schools and scholarship programs buy combinations from among 2.5 million names, College Board said, declining to say how many names in total it sells,” stated the Wall Street Journal. Some schools buy half a million names from them. Students taking the SAT are asked if they want their information available to schools and blindly say “yes” because they think colleges that are seriously interested in them will contact them.

By the end of my senior year, $1,138 of mine will be in the College Board’s hands.”

— Gabrielle Daley

Based on their mission statement “The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.” This “not-for-profit” company should return to its mission statement. From what it looks like, they’re monopolizing the path to post-secondary education, not helping students get one. The Board’s 23 executives make an average of $355,271 a year based on a 2013 article by Patch. It also stated that the College Board makes an annual profit of $62,000,000. Now for a non-profit organization that doesn’t have to pay any taxes, that seems like a little much. The College Board that only “wants to help students go to college” is more like a corporation looking to reap profits.

And there’s nothing we can do about it. Students are expected to take the SAT, and they need to give the College Board their personal information which could be sold to do so. In time, they need to send their scores, their CSS Profile and their AP scores to get into college. By the end of my senior year, $1,138 of mine will be in the College Board’s hands. There’s no way around the monopoly. They know that too, that’s why they can charge a ridiculous amount for every single step of the college search and application process. The least they could do is be unclassified as a not-for-profit organization that wants to help students. That’s just a complete and utter lie.