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The College Board: A Pay to Win System

Updated: Apr 18

By Ziao Yin


Image via The Student Post.


By now, the College Board is a household name, ringing in the minds of every highschooler in the US. Racking up Advanced Placement (AP) credits and studying for the SATs start the moment we step foot in the school halls. Founded in 1899, the College Board is a non-profit organization, aiming to “connect students to college success.” However, today it holds a monopoly over standardized testing and college admissions, caring next to nothing about the students themselves, often stunting their opportunities beyond high school.


College applications and administration come with a myriad of challenges put on the student and their families, one of which being the sheer cost. The College Board administers many of the tests needed for college, including SATs and APs. The SATs cost $64.50 to take and $12 for each school that requires a reported score. The AP tests, which are taken more than once each year, cost $102 per test. Many students that otherwise would receive federal or state free/cost reduced lunch, are offered minute or no financial assistance on test fees by the College Board. Fortunate school districts, mainly located in affluent, white neighborhoods, have implemented district SATs free of charge for juniors, as well as AP assistance. However, not every school district has the means to implement these costly measures into their systems, especially those who lack state and federal funding. Even so, paying for the test is only a small fraction of what goes on behind a test. High achieving students often spend thousands on tutoring, hundreds on study books, and even pay for test retakes, all things that a less fortunate student cannot do. These ‘standardized’ tests only work for the rich, who are able to pay these fees, whilst leaving less fortunate students behind.


Image via TotalRegistration.


Money set down into college admissions continues to fuel not only the wealth disparities in this country, but also the race disparities in higher education. BIPOC communities statistically make less than their white counterparts, which leads to a lack of funding from their school districts. These BIPOC students who need assistance in the College Board tests would not receive any funding at all, due to their school’s inability to cover costs. In their history, most AP program schools have been concentrated in affluent, predominantly white suburbs, whereas students of color are often located near schools with less qualified teachers (2014 study). Another study done in 2015 showed that many teachers and counselors have different expectations regarding students based on race, impacting BIPOC students in schools that need approval from teachers and counselors to enroll in AP or honor courses. This inhibits many capable students from taking rigorous courses, getting denied despite their more than sufficient grades. In addition, the College Board has repeatedly denied accommodations to students with disabilities. Outside of the discrepancy in diagnosis and treatment between BIPOC and white students who struggle with learning disabilities, white students are twice as likely to receive special designations than BIPOC students. The College Board’s hunger for money has continuously contributed to pushing racial disparities and achievement gaps in the US.


Despite their claims to prioritizes student success, the actions of the College Board, especially with their 2021 AP exams, acts in opposition to that very claim. In the year of 2018, the College Board’s total revenue was 1.07 billion USD, even with them being a non-profit organization. Amid a pandemic, the College Board is still administering AP tests that contain content from a full year. Since March 2020, students that would usually be getting over 30 hours of in-person instruction a week are getting as little as an hour a week of online classes, and are unable to receive quality education. Students who rely on public education fall behind students whose families can pay to live in affluent neighborhoods with the resources to return to school safely, tutoring, and even private school. Furthermore, many have suffered economically due to COVID-19 and putting the additional pressure of AP tests and SAT fees on families is just not right. Education should not be monopolized nor monetized, especially during a global pandemic. A change needs to be driven by students, fighting for others that may not be as fortunate. Take a look at @students4examequity on Instagram and their petition that addresses many of these issues. Through the disparities in the US today, many of which are caused by the College Board, higher education has become a pay to win system.


Written by writer Ziao Yin


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