College Board Defends Profits

University Testing

With each addition to the ever-growing list of test-score optional colleges, promoters of the SAT become more desperate. An Associated Press (AP) story, which ran nationally in the wake of Muhlenberg's decision to drop its SAT requirement, typifies how far from the truth the College Board strays to defend its product.


For example, Ken Hartman, College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) director of admissions and guidance, was quoted in the AP report as rationalizing the trend by claiming, Some colleges are having a difficult time filling their classes . . . Yet, college handbooks rate Muhlenberg as competitive and designate many other test score-optional institutions, such as Bowdoin, as among the most competitive in the nation.


According to the AP, Hartman also claimed that all colleges that do not require the SAT are small, East Coast, liberal arts and predominately white. But FairTest's list of Schools Where SAT and ACT Scores are Optional for Admission into Bachelor Degree Programs includes the California State University system, the City University of New York, Grambling State University and the Oregon State System of Higher Education, none of which fit the stereotype.


College Board spokeswoman Janice Gams added to the distortions by telling the AP, Very few major four-year colleges allow students to avoid the SAT. Again, the truth is very different with the list now approaching 250 schools including such well-known institutions as Bates, Connecticut, Lafayette, and Julliard.


Protecting Market Share

The College Board's need to defend the SAT is explained, to some extent, by an examination of the organization's tax returns. The most recent public inspection copies, covering the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1995, show that the CEEB took in more than $200,000,000 in program service revenue, primarily from test-takers and their parents. Annual income exceeded expenses by five million dollars leaving net assets at the close of the year in excess of $62,000,000.


This huge revenue stream produces first-class accommodations and large salaries for College Board leaders. In addiion to owning a mid-town Manhattan building directly across from Lincoln Center, the Board paid yearly wages of more than $50,000 to 157 employees. Three people received over $200,000 annually, with President Donald Stewart topping the list at $273,000 in compensation, $47,298 in benefits, and $46,000 more in expense and other allowance.


For the most part, the College Board acts as a conduit to collect fees for the Educational Testing Service (ETS) which manufactures the SAT and other exams. More than two-thirds of CEEB revenues, a total of $137,000,000, was passed on to ETS for contract services. The Board also spent just under one million dollars a year in legal fees, in large part to fight against test-takers rights in courtrooms and legislatures, a sum more than double FairTest's annual budget.


Based on this data, it is no wonder that each college joining the test-score optional list is perceived as a threat to the College Board's very comfortable status quo.