Commentary | Unpacking the College Board

Archive, Teen Topics

By: Audrey Weiss

Any high school student has most likely interacted with the College Board either through taking an Advanced Placement, or AP, class and the ensuing exam or through the PSAT/ SAT exams. 

The College Board is the organization that has a monopoly over education and is inherently ingrained in the school system that students know today.

The College Board’s mission, as listed on their website, is to “prepare [students] for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success—including the SAT, the Advanced Placement Program, and BigFuture.”

Services provided by the College Board are vital to students seeking higher education post-high school. 

There are many inquiries that the College Board has been called out for as of late, pointing out how the institution is failing to fulfill its mission and needs reformation.

The College Board was founded in the year 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB), with the purpose of creating a standardized entrance exam for colleges and universities and serving as a venue for college access discussion.

The services provided by the College Board have changed along with the times, growing with the educational institutions it maintains partnerships with and growing in reach as College Board exams have replaced government-mandated achievement tests.

The College Board expanded in 1952 with the AP pilot, which started the organization’s providing of educational curriculums coming directly from them to be implemented in classrooms all over the country and now the world.

Advanced Placement is now the largest source of income for the College Board.

As far as income is concerned, the financial aspect of the College Board has been one of the major points of negative discussion. According to recent reporting from the New York Times, more than $490 million of the College Board’s revenue came from AP and Instruction.

The College Board identifies itself as a “not-for-profit organization,” both publicly and under the national tax code.

This means that all of the funds that the organization collects are untaxed, but the income should not be distributed to the members and leadership.

However, the College Board is making a lot of profit, hundreds of millions each year, which isn’t all getting recycled to run the services the College Board distributes.

The College Board invests some of the money it is making off of the students, gaining more and more profit that is difficult to trace, and beyond that, both the CEO and the President of College Board made over a million dollars in the year 2018.

The College Board monetizes off of the students with the exams it provides. The SAT costs $55,the base cost for one AP test is $97, and millions of these tests are taken every year.

The organization originally founded to increase access to higher education now serves as a block in the road for many. The services provided by the College Board have institutionalized racial, gender, and income inequality in the college application process.

Although there are opportunities for fee waivers, which only 10% of yearly College Board profit is spent on, the high costs for College Board exams and the exams themselves get in the way of accessibility and prevent students from making it to the next educational step.

The SAT for a long time has been a requirement in most college applications, that or the main competitor for the College Board the ACT.

Accessibility to the test could determine where students end up after high school and the level of privilege, financial or otherwise, then becomes a factor in SAT success because of how many times a person is able to take it and the study opportunities available to them.

On another note, opportunities for fee waivers, either for an individual or an entire district are available. The Baltimore City Public School System itself provides students with free AP exams.

The College Board has also been making changes to the SATs to try and keep relevance for the test, by both eliminating the essay sections of the exam, and now with the in-progress move toward digital testing.

However, the future of the SAT is becoming questionable following the move away from standardized entry testing by colleges and universities.

The faults of the unchecked and unelected organization, the College Board, are now being recognized for taking advantage of students and contributing to a broken educational system.

There are major pushes for change and a complete overhaul of the education system that the College Board monopolized, but with the power that the organization possesses, who knows how successful any attempt will be.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

Headline photo caption:

Photo by: Common Data Set Initiative. Edited by Quinn Bryant for the BSA Muse.