The College Board Scam
By Mariah Esquivel '21
(A demonstration against the College Board. Photo: Getty Images)
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: the College Board is just another billion-dollar organization that profits off of naïve high school students who just want to be accepted into their dream college. And I am sadly one of the millions of students who have been caught up in the College Board scam, yet again putting money into another rich white man’s pocket who couldn’t care less about the flawed standardized testing system. On the College Board website, they state that they’re “...helping millions of students navigate the transition from high school to college each year through programs like the SAT [and] AP…” but it's more like they’re swindling high school students into spending hundreds of dollars to take tests that were invented by a man that wanted to prove white people were more intelligent than people of color. Not only does the College Board have a history of racist beginnings that still affect students of color today, but they have multiple outstanding lawsuits against them, one of them being about selling students’ personal information to make more money. So much for being a not-for-profit organization.
The SAT’s foundation was one of racism due to its creator, Carl Brigham. Through the 19th century, European immigrants were increasingly moving to the U.S., and many white people were concerned about the intermingling of non-whites in public schools. So in 1923, Brigham published A Study of American Intelligence, and “wrote that African-Americans were on the low end of the racial, ethnic, and/or cultural spectrum,” according to NEA News. He believed that testing could prove that people of color were less intelligent than their white counterparts. Brigham had an important role in the development of the SAT after being commissioned by the College Board. The legacy of this can still be seen through the wide race gaps in the results on the SAT math section. According to The Brookings Institution, in the Class of 2020 Black students scored an average of 454 out of 800, and Latino or Hispanic students didn’t score much higher with an average of 478. Compare this with their white counterparts who scored an average of 547, or Asian students with an average of 632. Brookings reports that “...less than a quarter of Black students and under a third of Hispanic or Latino students” met the college readiness requirements for math. These results could be due to a number of factors, such as generational exclusion from education, not having access to tutors, or having other priorities that go beyond school. Whatever the root causes, the results show a lasting legacy of racial inequity on the SAT exam.
One of the many cover-up solutions the College Board tried to use instead of addressing the real issue of racial disparities was a new addition to the SAT exams: the Adversity Score. The score would incorporate neighborhood, family, and high-school environment along with poverty levels, on a scale from 1 (you are white-picket-fenced privileged) to 100 (you’ve had a hard life). This was a pathetic and lazy excuse for not wanting to rethink the idea of a standardized test that does not equally serve students, or serve them well at all; it was like throwing a band-aid at someone who has been hit by a train. How do you expect to build on a foundation on racism, ignore the problem, then try to “help” students by scoring their hardships instead of, oh I don’t know, abolishing the entire SAT and AP tests? But of course, that will never happen because of people like David Coleman, the current CEO of the College Board. In 2014, Coleman instituted changes to the SAT that were criticized as inadequate by other employees of the College Board themselves. Ironically he stated that “... his new, improved test would be a tool for eradicating social injustice; the test would be a great leveler,” as told by Forbes, giving off white-savior energy. He was the one to announce the addition of the Adversity Score to the SAT back in the spring of 2019, but recalled it later in the fall of that same year, due to well-deserved controversy. Instead, the College Board put another band-aid on the problem called Landscape. This will essentially do the same thing the Adversity Score did, but they won’t be scoring it; instead, it will just give admissions counselors a “better look” into the student’s environment.
Furthermore, the College Board is a not-for-profit organization, which means they are not supposed to sell students’ personal information for their own benefits, but that’s exactly what they are accused of doing. According to Edscoop, Chicago public school parents are suing the College Board for deceiving students into believing that by using its Student Search Survey, they would connect them to college and scholarship opportunities, but instead, they sold that information to third-party organizations for 47 cents per student. This happened from the fall of 2016 to possibly the present day, as they are still using the Student Search Survey. And the College Board hasn’t addressed the lawsuit publicly, because wouldn’t that look really bad for a not-for-profit organization to be selling millions of minors’ personal information?
Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and the College Board has so many other flaws. Using standardized testing for admissions is often unfair and sometimes worse than useless, therefore I believe that the College Board should be abolished as it serves no purpose. I believe they’ve rendered themselves pointless due to their racist roots that still affect students of color today, their inadequate attempts to make up for their biased tests, and the way they exploit students’ naivete about scholarship opportunities. Instead of standardized testing, college admissions should just consider academic grades, involvement in school and community, and other responsibilities that affect the student. So I’ll leave you with this: the College Board is just another scam, and as Public Enemy said best, “Don’t believe the hype.”