Opinion: College Board’s Con

Prominent non profit monopolizes education

Sahat Sopirala, Staff

Underlying the beautiful process of education and the joy, enlightenment, and passion it brings to students is the College Board. On the surface, the College Board is a centralized, competent and occasionally blundering vehicle that students utilize to accomplish their educational goals. The issue: it’s a supposed “Non-Profit Organization” (NPO) yet violates the altruism of that label in many ways.

By hiding under the moniker of “nonprofit”, the College Board avoids paying federal income tax based on IRS subsection 501(c). An NPO is also supposed to have no monetary motive in its workings other than what is necessary for its prescribed betterment of society. And while there’s no way to prove that the College Board is operated on greed, it can be reasonably inferred based on the sheer magnitude of profits they make, their current holdings, and their actual spending on the improvement of education.

Currently, no other institution offers college-level classes or college credit-endowing exams as extensively in high school (“Dual-Credit” and IB classes exist but aren’t nearly as prevalent nor have the same financial backing as AP classes in the US). As a result, the College Board’s total profit, even in the COVID-tainted year of 2020, was $99 million. The amount used to actually improve and encourage education was a comparably measly $1.1 million according to The College Board’s 2020 financial audit. 

Of course, the College Board allotted most of their earnings to the growth of their over-a-billion dollar holdings. The desire to enrich and enhance students’ educational experience, regardless of their present circumstances, should be the primary impetus for the College Board’s economic activity; instead, this motivation is smothered by their greed and desire to grow, regardless of their doing so on the backs of students.

What happens to the College Board’s funds if it falls to the wayside? An NPO is supposed to transfer its funds to another NPO with a similar agenda of public benefit. If the College Board falls, there is no other NPO with a similar function and prominence as the College Board; This gives College Board the same boon that it would gain if it were a traditional monopoly and, unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only way the College Board resembles one.

While ACT, inc. issues a similar aptitude test to the SAT, it doesn’t administer anything resembling AP classes or tests, which are now tenets of high school education. According to “The Washington Post”, until 2018 the ACT was the overall leader in aptitude testing. However, in 2018 the College Board finally overtook ACT inc. (SAT’s two million students vs. ACT’s 1.91 million) through their already established reputation from AP classes and, more prominently, their new deals with state governments, involving contracts detailing the exclusive offering of their test over the ACT. 

The legality of these companies’ conduct is questionable; the Sherman Antitrust bill specifically denotes contracts that ban trade across borders as illegal, yet that’s what the College Board is doing in 11 states, according to “The Washington Post.” Per Colorado’s department of education website, the state “received bids from two vendors, College Board and ACT…” and eventually signed with College Board through “…a five-year contract to administer the PSAT and SAT to Colorado’s 10th- and 11th-grade students.” The College Board’s actions are quite literally removing competition through governmental favor and have been specifically outlawed for over a century.

The College Board reeks of greed and is infesting through schools around the country with its confidentiality, unnecessarily tedious fines, and lackluster operation and spending. ”

Proponents of the College Board’s monopoly-like conduct claim that although not ideal, a centralized system is direly needed for the educational role that the College Board currently fills and satisfies. But in every other area of commerce, we don’t allow for an exception on that ground. For example, sure, a centralized wireless service provider would be more efficient, but at what cost? They would have a monopoly in the industry and would be able to gouge prices however they pleased, thereby exploiting the very society that their centralization was supposed to serve. 

A similar effect is present from the College Board; it has menial competition, especially in the area of AP classes, and therefore can up the charge on their tests to their desire, as they’ve been. Each year, the AP test price rises a couple of dollars and is soon to exceed a hundred dollars. Millions of students paying near one hundred dollar fees surely result in more than the College Board needs to accomplish their altruistic motivation of “expand[ing] access to higher education.”

 If centralization is the holy grail of college preparation then the government should be the entity that implements standardized tests and college credit classes to stay consistent with its own statutes. We don’t allow monopolies in any other area of trade and commerce because of the inevitable repercussions, and education should be no exception.

The cherry on top is that the CEO of the College Board, David Coleman, makes over $1.8 million annually, with other high-level executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars. A non-profit is allowed to pay their employees reasonable compensation, but a non-profit dishing out salaries like a Wallstreet mainstay is an awry notion, especially one whose field is education. 

The College Board reeks of greed and is infesting through schools around the country with its confidentiality, unnecessarily tedious fines, and lackluster operation and spending. Sadly, the state of the American educational system has the College Board deeply rooted into it, and the “NPO” shows no signs of relinquishing its control of education nor diverging from its questionable ways.