When I was named Teacher of the Year for the state of California in 2007 I was given, among other things, a free trip to Princeton, New Jersey to visit the HQ of ETS.
Talk about georgoeus. I mean this place was Shangra-la.
And all I kept asking myself was, “This place is non-profit?” No freakin’ way. They gotta be hauling in money by the truckload.
The SAT. The PSAT. The AP tests. The GRE.
Holy smokes… is anybody doing the math on these guys? That’s all I could think about my entire stay.
Well, someone did do the math.
Read this and tell me that that something isn’t reminiscent of a famous quote from the play Hamlet.
Here are some highlights:
Last year, the SAT cost $45 for the basic test, which 1.5 million U.S. students took. The College Board does not comment on how much revenue each test brings in, but once you factor in the nearly 222,000 students who received fee waivers from the College Board, you can roughly estimate that SAT revenue was at least $58,360,365. I say at least because many students take the test over and over again, trying to refine their scores to get into better colleges. That’s not to mention the litany of extra fees the College Board charges if you get your scores by phone ($12.50), rush the results ($36.50), or ask for a refund ($7). The real revenue is likely to be millions more than $58,360,365, and that’s before you factor in the foreigners who want a piece of an American education ($26 international processing fee; $23 more if you’re taking it in India or Pakistan).
That’s only the beginning. Many colleges also demand that students take SAT Subject Tests, which are more focused than the broad-ranging SAT. The majority of students who take Subject Tests, which are at least $29 each, sit for three or more. In all, 752,854 Subject Tests were taken, leading to at least $21.8 million in revenue but certainly far more because of the flexible pricing structure.
The PSAT, which serves little purpose besides being a warm-up act for the SAT? $13 per test. In 2006, 2.7 million students took the PSAT for an estimated $35.3 million in revenue, less whatever costs the College Board waived for low-income students.
Then there are the AP exams, which assess whether students have college-level mastery of a subject, usually after taking a corresponding honors course in high school. Having an AP course on your transcript is highly attractive for your college application, just as scoring well on an AP test is highly beneficial once you get to college. So for the elite students in the country, the AP test is a necessary evil, one that costs them $86. In 2008, more than 2.7 million AP tests were taken worldwide. That’s more than $232 million of revenue.
In 2006—the most recent year for which the College Board’s tax returns are available—the College Board brought in a total of $582.9 million of revenue.
Over a half a billion per year for the bubble test industry? When people cry out for change, we have to realize the forces which are in opposition to this change.
And the forces of opposition will always be the folks who are raking in the serious cash. Heck, I’m scared that I’m gonna get a poison blow dart in my neck simply from typing this type of post.
You think Wall Street is worthy of investigation and re-thinking? Might I suggest… twwwppp!
There’s the blowdart!