home Opinion The SAT and ACT: Two Very Profitable “Nonprofits”

The SAT and ACT: Two Very Profitable “Nonprofits”

Portia Kwan | pkwan19@dtechhs.org | June 14, 2018
Photo by Portia Kwan

It’s summer time, which means many juniors are taking the ACT or SAT before they apply for colleges in the fall. According to College Board, the non profit organization best know for the administering the SAT, “more than 7.3 million test takers completed the SAT or a PSAT-related assessment in the 2016-2017 school year,” and make about a yearly revenue of more than $750 million. And in California, 988,438 test takers completed the SAT or a PSAT-related assessment in the 2016-2017 school year. According to the ACT National Profile Report in 2016, a total of close to 2.1 millions took the test.

With a total close to 2.1 million ACT test takers and more than 7.3 million SAT test takers, costs for taking these tests can add up. Not to mention most students take these tests more than once. The registration cost for the ACT and SAT are about the same. SAT costs $60 ($46 without essay) and the ACT costs $62.50 ($46 without essay). There is a late fee if you register after the regular deadline, which is $29. There can also be a waitlist fee, $49 for SAT and $53 for standby testing on the ACT, charged if you register after the late registration deadline and are seated on test day. If you decide to change your test center, test date, or test type, there is a change fee: $29 for SAT and $25 for ACT.  In addition to all the costs, if you would like to request the test questions and correct answers, there’s an additional fee. All this money starts adding up, but that’s not the end, there’s more.

Once you take the test, you’ll have to send your scores to college. Both the ACT and SAT allow you to send your scores to four schools for free. Once you exceed your four schools, there’s a fee per school for SAT and the ACT. Though all of these options and expenses seem to be at a mid to low price, together these can really rack up the cost quickly resulting in hundreds of dollars. For example, if your school superscores (final composite score made up of all your highest individual section scores), then you might want to send 2 or 3 tests to combine your highest score. If you’re applying to 10 colleges and and you want to send three scores, this means you’ll need to send a total of 30 test scores. That’s an enormous amount of money spent just on testing.

Most high school students recognize the acorn logo as College Board. Whether you are taking the PSAT, SAT or any AP exam, at some point a high school student will come across a College Board product. This is exactly what College Board wants!

This non profit has a yearly revenue of more than $750 million, according to the group’s most recent publicly available 990 form. A Business Insider article states that the, “president at the time of the 990, Gaston Caperton, made more than $1.5 million, including incentive and deferred compensation; 22 other employees earned at least $200,000.” A 2009 CNN article written about College Board stated that, “Critics say that that with its highly-paid executives and big business outlook, the College Board doesn’t look or act very much like a nonprofit educational institution that earns tax benefits from the IRS.” Fairtest, an American educational organization that opposes most standardized test taking, speaks to the issue: “[The College Board] is a huge business, multiple hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tests and test prep material that come out of our parents’ pockets and into the pockets of test makers – money that should be spent on real education.” The company has criticized College Board for placing more emphasis on making money than fulfilling its mission – to connect students “to college success and opportunity with a commitment to equity and access.” In an interview with Gaston Caperton, 2009 College Board President, he said, “the money we [College Board] make is invested back into our programs and services.”

Students were shocked to hear about College Board’s annual revenue. Junior Kathy Wang said, “That’s a lot of money especially for a test that’s practically required.” Junior Jasmin Texidor said, “I think the SAT is a scam at least a little bit, because why would we have to pay for something I have to take? If I want a future, I’m going to have to take the SAT [or ACT] so that I can give it to colleges. Why do I have to pay to take the SAT?” She also mentioned how much it costs to prepare for the SAT which includes getting tutors to help you prepare. “You have to pay for everything to make sure that you do good on this one test that is going to determine your whole future. I don’t like that you have to pay. I don’t want to pay for something I have to do,” says Texidor. “I think the price of it I can definitely see why it’s a scam. The biggest scam I would say is the essay part because most colleges don’t care about the essay. Only a few colleges like the UC and some private [colleges] where they care about the essay. I think that’s the biggest scam because they charge extra money for it but most schools don’t care. I think it’s overpriced,” says Junior Tanson Chan.

Environmental Science teacher, Fannie Hsieh says, “I think it’s really lame that colleges require it to determine whether or not you’re good enough to get into their school. College Board charges a ridiculous amount of money for it because they know it’s necessary for students to do it and of course people are going to take it more than once to get a better grade. So it’s really just for people who can afford it.”

With all of this evidence, you have to wonder what the College Board’s incentives are: the students or its already vast bank account? I don’t need a 1600 on the SAT to know that something is going wrong with this non profit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *