Inside The College Board

Organization that oversees AP exams brings in millions each year

Inside The College Board

Abby Moutardier, Editor-in-Chief

Every May, high school students around the country partake in Advanced Placement exams administered by the College Board, for the opportunity to receive college credit with a score of three or higher. 

The College Board labels themselves as “not-for-profit”, however in 2019 made a profit of $58,592,473 and total revenue of $1,107,897,207, according to Total Registration. Of the total revenue nearly $500,000,000 came exclusively from AP exams, with 5,098,815 tests administered at $94 each. The price of the AP Exam goes to cover the creation, production and grading of the exam. 

The state of Indiana pays for all math, science, and English exams, as well as a few others through a grant. For a student taking multiple exams in foreign language, arts, and history, AP exams can set them back a couple hundred dollars. Junior Liv Addison is taking four exams, and said she thinks the price is too high. 

“The price is not at all appropriate,” Addison said. “ It keeps kids who are really smart, but in low-income situations, from the opportunity to take [AP tests].” 

Before the school year starts, the College Board pre-selects material and content covered on the exam that year. In turn, AP teachers have less choice of what to teach, and may spend less time on a difficult subject to cover everything before May. 

“I do ‘teach for the exam’ in AP Chemistry,” Clark Mumaw said. “If there were no national exam, I would probably teach differently. It would remove a lot of stress from my plate. I would be able to spend more time on things I like to teach. However, that is the problem with not having an exam. Each teacher would teach what they want to teach and then the College Board wouldn’t be able to give college credit just because you took the class. There has to be some kind standard that we teach to.” 

In 2019, 391 students took 734 AP exams at NAHS, and 29% scored a three or higher. A 2016 study found that 86% of top US Colleges accepted AP credits in some capacity, according to CNBC

Many colleges and universities give credit for a score of three, which means “qualified”. Even more colleges accept fours and fives, which mean “very well qualified” and “extremely well qualified”, respectively. In our state only public universities are required to accept credit earned through dual credit with Ivy Tech, meaning students hoping to go out of state or to a private Indiana university have much more guaranteed benefits from AP credits than Ivy Tech. Senior Isaac Saegesser is attending University of Colorado Boulder, where his Ivy Tech credits will not be counted.  

“For me, I didn’t know what I was doing for college until this year so I took a lot of APs and Ivy Tech dual credits so I would be able to save money regardless if I went out of state or not,” Saegesser said.  “Honestly, if you know financially you have to go instate, load your coursework with dual credits. If you’re going out of state, take a lot of APs so you know you’ll be able to use them. That’s something I wish I knew sooner, because Ivy Tech credits only work at UofL, IU, and other public Indiana universities. At CU Boulder, only my AP credits are being counted so I can’t transfer any of my Ivy tech ones there.”

Taking AP Classes also provides a GPA boost. At NAHS, every AP class is a 6.0 on the weighted GPA scale. Getting a C in an AP class is the GPA equivalent to an A in a general education class. Junior Elliott Quillo says the GPA boost is a large reason behind why he takes AP classes. 

“Whenever I first started signing up for AP classes, I was looking at it for the college credit,” Quillo said. “Now I’m mainly doing them to help my GPA. They really do affect it.” 

The College Board is also responsible for the SAT, which is required for admission at many US Colleges. An increasing number of colleges or universities went to a test blind or test optional policy, meaning they did not require an SAT or ACT score for admission. As of October 2020, nearly two thirds of colleges and universities adopted this policy, according to FairTest.

“Standardized testing does not work for most people,” Quillo said. “I got all A’s last semester, but a really bad ACT score. [The tests] are standardized but not equal.” 

At the base level, an SAT costs $52 or $68 with the essay portion. Those who register after the deadline are met with $30 in late fees. To maximize profit, the College Board charges additional fees such as $15 to get scores by phone, or $13.50 to get a more detailed look at missed questions. To raise scores, students can opt to take an SAT prep course; costing as much as $200 per hour, students can expect 30-60 additional points, according to Prep Scholar. 

“I think tThe College Board] is not as inclined to help lower class people,” Quillo said. “If you’re in a lower class, sure there’s aid for paying for the actual exam but there’s no way you’re going to get aid studying for it.”  

If more post-secondary schools veer away from College Admissions Exams, the College Board will be forced to make some changes unless they want to truly be labeled a not-for-profit. 

The intentions of the College Board continue to be debated. While the issues of the company and the monopoly it has over the education industry are known, it’s argued that what they are ultimately doing for students is good. A passing AP exam counts as three college credit hours, which would cost over $700 for an Indiana Resident at IU. The $94 to take the AP Exam seems like nothing if you pass.   

“Many times these people don’t like the College Board because they think it’s an organization that’s grown too big for its britches,” Mumaw said. “My question for them is, ‘What other organization is out there trying to help high school students earn college credit?’ I only know of one or two other organizations and I believe they are far inferior to what the College Board offers.