by Anisha Cherukuri

The SAT is a big part of preparing for college. A student’s score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test can influence their chances of getting into their dream college and, in some cases, can earn them certain grants and scholarships. Most people only know about the testing side of the SAT, but almost no one knows about what’s going on behind the curtain, or where the money that students pay to take the SAT goes.

Well, it turns out that the SAT is run by a nonprofit organization called the College Board. The College Board organization started out as a nonprofit because it was thought to be serving a public need by simplifying college admissions and making it easier for students to get financial aid. They also state that they “expand access to higher education” and that they help students “prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services.”

It’s not only the SAT that the College Board runs, but the PSAT, the SAT subject tests, and the AP exams. All the money that students spend taking and retaking these exams go to the College Board. 

For a nonprofit organization, the College Board makes a lot of money. In 2015, the College Board made over $77 million in profit, and the number of students taking standardized exams has only increased since then. The majority of these profits go to the high ranking executives of the College Board organization. In 2016 David Coleman, the CEO and president of the College Board at the time, earned over $1.7 million in total compensation according to their 990 Form from 2016.

Other high ranking executives in the organization tend to earn a lot as well. In 2012, the College Board’s top 23 executives made an average of over $350k that year. However, not all the money that the College Board makes go to their executives. Last year, the College Board spent almost $210k trying to influence legislation and had spent $420k the year before that according to the Senate Office of Public Records. The organization owns three lobbying firms and seven lobbyists and have also tried to require AP exams in California high schools.

The rest of the profits that College Board earns seem to go into buying up assets. According to their 990 Form from 2016 the College Board organization owns a total of $888 million in net assets and fund balances. Yet, this organization still operates under the title of being a “Non-profit organization.”

The AETR (Americans for Education Testing Reforms) has shown criticism of the College Board, saying that the organization should have their non-profit status repealed due to their “exorbitant officer compensation,” “unacceptable political manipulation,” and “massive profits.” In fact, the AETR gave the College Board a “D” grade.

So should the College Board still be able to claim a non-profit status and all the benefits that come with it? Being a non-profit organization grants the College Board tax exemptions and deductions, and gives them eligibility for private and public grants. There are a lot of benefits to being a non-profit, but does the College Board deserve them?