$AT: Why the High Cost?

$AT: Why the High Cost?

*This article was featured in the April print edition of The Blue and Gold.


That is how much I have given to a certain non-profit in order to sit at a desk and fill in bubbles for hours at a time. I can guarantee that many Chamblee students have “donated” a similar amount to the College Board too.

At $52.50, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) (not including score reports or other requisite services) costs quite a hefty sum, but where does this money go? As a non-profit organization with the goal of expanding higher education to students of all backgrounds, one would hope that most of College Boards revenue (approximately $750 million according to nonprofitquarterly.org) would be used towards structuring better exams or helping low-income students; however, College Board’s CEO, Gaston Caperton, earns $1.3 million a year, and has a $125,000 expense account. The high pay of Caperton and the 19 other College Board executives who make over $300,000(bloomberg.com)  a year seems to fly in the face of the College Boards intended purpose: to expand educational opportunities to all students.

With an annual revenue of close to $750 million, and a profit of over $65.6 million (enough to reimburse 1.2 million SATs), a student could ask why he or she has to keep shouldering price increase from College Board’s services. The SAT’s current cost of $52.50 is more than double what it was in 1999 ($23.50), and another price increase is rumored. With the College Board altering the SAT soon, one could ask whether it is in the interest of the students or primarily to help maintain College Board’s bottom line. 2014 was the first year that more high school students took the American College Test (ACT), administered by ACT incorporated, than the SAT, and that disparity will only increase in the future. With College Boards signature revenue under threat, the new SATs standards could be lessened in order to appeal to more students.

The College Board does offer many important services to students, the Advanced Placement Exam (AP), the preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), and SAT subject tests (SAT IIs), and in recent years the organization has been able to offer a wider-ranged national student body more choices in regard to preparing for college. Notwithstanding, the College Board also has a financial interest in expanding the number of students taking national exams, whether they are offered freely or not, especially as the cost of exams rise. Whenever test-takers fill out their personal information before taking an exam, the College Board receives a product that it can then sell to colleges, companies, and private organizations. For 33 cents, any organization can buy my personal information and use it more their own purposes.

It is also important to note that whenever students are offered free SATs or have their AP exams fees waived, the College Board is not the one who does so. The College Board spends $660,000  (opensecrets.org) a year lobbying states and local school boards to buy standardized exams in bulk. This leads to the College Board reaching its goals for expanding opportunities to low-income students, while also meeting College Boards bottom line.

As a student, the exorbitant amount of money I have and will spend on College Boards services and exams causes undue stress amongst high school students and families nationwide (more than 1.6 million students took the SAT in 2013). Access to higher education, something so essential to our future, should not need to cost thousands of dollars.