High-Flying Test Fees

University Testing

While SAT scores have changed only slightly over the past two decades, one statistic from the college admissions testing process has soared -- fees for taking the exam. In the 1980-81 testing year, the basic registration charge for the SAT was $9.25. A decade later, in 1990-91 it had increased to $16.00. Now, in 1997-98 the price is $22.50. That's a 143 percent increase in 17 years, far greater than the general rate of price inflation, which was 96 percent over the same period.


The basic SAT I fee now brings in more than $40 million for the two million tests administered annually. This is supplemented by extra charges for late registration ($15), test center changes ($15), additional score reports beyond the first four ($6.50 each), telephone score reports ($8), question-and-answer service ($10), and SAT II Subject Test fees.


The steep fee increases enable the College Board to afford its own building across the street from Lincoln Center in New York City and the Educational Testing Service to occupy a former horse estate outside Princeton, New Jersey. Because students and their parents, not colleges, pay all these charges there's little incentive for admissions offices to critically analyze whether the tests are worth the price.