College Board Attacks Test Optional Colleges

Test Optional Colleges, College Board, College Board and Test Optional

Test-optional colleges are foes of College Board (photo credit: PolarBear11).

If you’re wondering the College Board’s position on test-optional colleges, we might suggest you follow the money. While the College Board is a not-for-profit organization, don’t think for a second that a not-for-profit isn’t driven by its bottom line — and College Board’s bottom line is quite high. Those $93 AP exam fees, that $57 SAT fee (or $85 if you happen to be a procrastinator and didn’t sign up early enough), those fees for SAT Subject Tests, for rushing exams to colleges — it all adds up to over $750 million annually in revenue. That’s right. The College Board is a money-making machine. So what do money-making machines do when they’re under attack? That’s right. They stand up and fight back. And rightly so. This is America, home of the free market.

Who is Attacking College Board

One of College Board’s most threatening attackers is, of course, test-optional colleges. A beautiful college in Lewiston, Maine founded by abolitionists is a foe of College Board (Bates College). So is the alma mater of Julia Child (Smith College). And a a lovely school in Brunswick, Maine that owes at least some of its capital raising to the success of Subway Sandwiches (Bowdoin College received a $10 million donation several years back from a founder of Subway Sandwiches). Eat Fresh.

You get the idea. These schools, and lots of others, may be relatively small in number but their ranks have been growing in recent years as more schools have chosen to go test-optional. Now let’s not get carried away. Most schools aren’t going test-optional anytime soon — and especially not the vast majority of highly selective colleges. But these colleges are making noise. These colleges are a threat to College Board’s business model, to its revenue streams.

How College Board is Fighting Back

One of the ways College Board has chosen to stand up and fight back against test-optional policies is by placing advertisements touting the importance of their exams. Some have argued that ads that tout the importance of these exams and articulate that test-optional policies are not in the interest of students or colleges are being mistaken as fact when they are in fact advertisements paid for by College Board. Let us be clear that we believe College Board has every right to advertise the importance of testing. Does it drive their bottom line? Yes. Is submitting great test results important in the college admissions process? Yes.

Does even a test-optional college appreciate when a student applies with great test results? You bet. Some would argue even more so than non-test optional colleges. Those test scores of admits to test-optional colleges influence the school’s all-important “US News & World Report” ranking. As Robert Morse writes in a piece articulating how “US News” ranks test-optional colleges, “If less than 75 percent of an entering class submits ACT or SAT scores, then a school’s overall ACT or SAT score is discounted by 15 percent in the ranking calculations. The overall value of the school’s score – whether it has risen or fallen compared with previous years – is reduced. ” So essentially what he’s saying is that those fewer scores that are submitted have that much more weight! Sure, college admissions officers at test-optional colleges will tell you that this added weight doesn’t factor into their decision-making but don’t believe it for a second. Highly selective colleges are driven by their “US News & World Report” ranking — test optional colleges included. Plain and simple.

How do you think College Board should address a threat to its way of doing business? Do you think the ads the organization has placed are appropriate? Let us know your thoughts, your questions, your musings, or even what you ate for breakfast by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.


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