No knowledge board: Is College Board a scam?

As a non-profit institution, the College Board is tax exempt. Yet in the 2019 fiscal year, they raked in $1.1 billion  of income. Operating not unlike a monopoly and with only one real competitor, the College Board has firmly entrenched itself in the average American high school. 

But with this staggering success comes a great deal of controversy. Accusations that the College Board is an unfair bureaucracy that only serves high income students have come year after year.  One of the main issues students have is the exorbitant amount of money that people are required to spend on College Board materials. If AP tests are not covered by the school district in some way, they cost $93 each to take. The SAT costs $60. If a student were to take 3-4 AP tests, as well as the SAT,  they would be looking at upwards of $300 in a given year, not including studying materials. 

The College Board’s problems don’t end there. Many AP classes have been accused of not adequately preparing students for the tests, and not accurately simulating the college class experience.  Top schools like Dartmouth, Brown, and Caltech have stopped accepting AP courses as credit entirely, for fear that the AP classes are not as challenging as college courses. This means that even if students were to go through these courses, challenge themselves and get a good score on the AP exam, they may not even get the college credit they were promised.

When COVID-19 hit the nation, many colleges stopped requiring the SAT to be included in college applications. This upended one of College Board’s biggest money makers and a test many deemed unfair. According to a study by Inside Higher Ed, students whose families make $20,000 or less score significantly worse than students whose families make more. One of the main problems is that study materials are expensive, and it is hard to justify the cost for many low income students. The College Board has tried to alleviate the problem by introducing a free study option on Khan Academy, but this addition has failed to significantly improve low income students’ SAT scores. Many parents and students hope that these issues will be solved by colleges focusing on grades and extracurriculars instead of the SAT. However, some colleges like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Georgetown University have begun to require the SAT once more. 

The College Board recently found itself in yet another controversy involving its newly added AP African American studies course. The course was on a limited rollout in select high schools around the country, with a nationwide implementation planned for the 2023 – 24 school year, but it had faced significant blowback from conservatives, most notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This January, DeSantis said that he would ban the course from being offered in Florida schools, citing “ideological material” and saying it “lacked educational value”. On February 1st, the first day of black history month, College Board announced the scaling back of the AP course, removing content relating to black feminism, black LGBTQ activists, and the black lives matter movement and placing them in an “optional” category that teachers could teach if they wanted to. This provoked outrage from the public and dozens of black professors, who claimed that the college board was caving into conservative demand. The college board, for its part, claimed to have no communication or collaboration with the Florida governor’s administration, but many people still remained incensed. 

A high school student evaluating this information would possibly choose to opt out of taking AP classes or the SAT in order to avoid the College Board altogether during high school. But this student would quickly learn that if they wanted to get into a reputable college, avoiding the College Board is virtually impossible. The average amount of AP classes taken in high school by students attending the University Of Georgia is 10. A student who wishes to get into a good college will be forced to attend AP classes and most likely take the SAT. In most cases they must also pay the money associated with those things. 

The College Board stands at a crossroads. Pushback coming from students and parents, along with universities increasing skepticism about the organization has forced it to reevaluate itself. But the College Board is not beyond reform. A new digital SAT which the College Board says will improve the testing experience for most students will become standardized across the country in the 2024/25 school year. And there have been reforms to AP coursework, as well as the addition of new and varied classes such as AP Precalculus. But if the College Board wants to maintain its place at the top of the education system, it must adapt and change in more substantial ways. 

Tumelo Johnson

Junior Tumelo Johnson is the News Editor for his third year with Cedar BluePrints. He hopes to pursue history and eventually go into academia. In the meantime, he plays the cello, participates in Model UN and loves to read. Johnson would like to learn more about editing this year. The Southern Interscholastic Press Association attendee appreciates the opportunity BluePrints gives him to bond with people.

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