Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

The College Board's growing power


By Joel Kwartler

What if I said the most powerful person in the world isn’t Barack Obama or the pope? That it’s not even Beyonce’s kid? You’d be shocked. Until three years ago, I would’ve been shocked, too. After starting high school, though, one realizes that the most powerful person is simply the president of the College Board.Kwartler

No, he can’t nuke other nations if they don’t use No. 2 pencils, nor is he featured regularly on the covers of those magazines by the grocery store checkout lines that nobody actually buys (aside from doctors who figure that’s what you really want to read while you spend weeks in the waiting room, worrying about your certainly life-threatening ailments). But the College Board president has more control over every teen than most parents. If he says, “Don’t stay out later than 10,” you plan to return at 9:30, just in case something happens to your car, the road or the natural flow of time.

See, the College Board controls more than most Americans realize. It’s in charge of the PSAT, SAT and SAT IIs. It runs the entire AP class system. And you know the meteor that exploded above Russia? It did that too.

None of this would be problematic if it used its power for good. But, at the risk of finding a negative sign added to my standardized test scores, I’m going to tell you exactly what’s wrong with the College Board.

Essentially, we must talk economics. We all know that monopolies are bad, which is why we allowed American Airlines to merge with US Airways, why we allowed Google to buy Motorola and, eventually, why we will allow Google to buy whatever single airline buys up all the others.

The biggest point against monopoly is that board games are so 2012. The second biggest argument is that they charge prices higher than Colorado (and now Coloradans) and more outrageous than a world with no Twinkies.

The College Board is no exception to this stereotype. The SAT costs $50, an AP test costs $85 and an SAT II costs $35. For your average high school junior, that’s hundreds of dollars to the College Board. Heck, these days it’d be cheaper to just pay Lance Armstrong to endorse your college application.

These costs continue to pile up as the College Board offers you all sorts of “options.” Want an official study aid? That’ll be another $20 to $60. Want to register late? That’ll be three pints of blood. Want to see what you got wrong after you’ve taken the SAT? Mail in your firstborn child.

Hold on a second, you took these tests because you wanted colleges to see your scores? Oh, sorry. The College Board assumed you took them because you enjoy standardized tests. You’ve just hit the College Board SendUsMoney multiplier section, where you pay per school you send scores to. But wait, you ask, can’t you send scores to some colleges for free? Well, of course you can! You just need to be confident in your test performance, because the free reports expire before you’ve seen your scores. Oh, and you also need to already know where you want to go to college.

Otherwise, well ... on the bright side, when you eventually apply for financial aid, your assets will be significantly reduced. After all, everything’s got a silver lining, including the College Board’s fleet of Boeing 787s.

Since millions of high schoolers take these tests, the College Board makes bank. Although it is officially a not-for-profit organization, its presidents have earned six- and seven-figure sums, and it annually spent more than $200,000 on political lobbying from 2007 to 2012. Plus, what could anyone do if the College Board tripled prices tomorrow? Practically nothing. Why are the prerequisites for applying to college a multi-million dollar industry?

Unfortunately, we can’t just get rid of the College Board or its monopoly because it serves as a major part of the college admissions process. We could, however, force its president to take AP calc test after AP calc test until his mind snaps, and he offers to cut all fees in half.

Whatever the proposed solution, something must be done. Because if the cost of college continues to rise and the cost of getting into college continues to rise, then college graduates will begin to look like the federal government: We’ll be dead before the debt is paid off.

Joel Kwartler is a junior at Lake Oswego High School. He writes a monthly column in the Review. To contact him, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..