OPINION: College Board holds a monopoly against students



     Any kid familiar with honors and AP courses is familiar with the monopoly College Board holds on college prep. A chance for college credits and a GPA boost lures unknowing students in, and are greeted with fees on top of fees with no other choice.

     Ask any current junior or senior who took any AP exams in 2020 during the COVID shutdown, and you will get complaints. Not only were exams still at the full price of $97, but previously three hour long exams were boiled down to an hour, several only consisting of one or two questions.

     The exams were taken remotely, and students with patchy wifi, uploading issues, and students overseas were treated with the mentality “too bad, so sad.” 

     If you knew 90% of the content of the course you took, but the one question was on a unit you couldn’t remember well, there’s $97 down the drain.

     With the contents of the tests being cut so drastically, thousands of intelligent, hardworking students worldwide lost time, money, sleep and potential college credits; all of this due to Collegeboard being massively unprepared and out for desperate high schoolers’ cash.

     While $97 is significantly cheaper than thousands college students pay for tuition and college credits, it’s far from affordable for a lot of students and families. Even the full tests outside of the college shutdown are unfairly priced, with scholarships only offered to some students.

     AP exams are only $10 for students who qualify for financial aid, but what about the other kids? What about the ones who are just outside the income bracket for it, but $97 for each exam would devastate their family budget? What about kids who forgot to turn in their paperwork?

     This isn’t even including students taking multiple AP courses. Some will fill their schedules with them, having two, three, or even four classes in one year. That’s up to $388 or more of exam fees, and that’s a gamble since there’s no guarantee that you’ll pass anyway. AP exams are known to be rigorous and long, kids testing for hours upon hours at a time, consisting of essays, multiple choice questions, and more. 

     What if you pay the $97+ for your exam, but then suddenly start performing badly in your class? You put a lot of consideration into it, and decide it wouldn’t be with it to take the exam. You can cancel it, and no worries, right? Wrong! There’s a deadline to cancel, and there’s a whopping $40 fee, because obviously you haven’t given them enough money.

     Normally a fee for inconveniencing a company would be pretty insignificant, but did students gain anything when College Board inconvenienced them for the poor quality exams of 2020? Did students in Europe get paid for having to test at 2 am? Did hardworking students get compensated for a two question long exam that doesn’t show their full range of knowledge and talent? I don’t think so.

     All of these issues would be a much smaller problem if it wasn’t a monopoly. Students who want to take college courses have no other choice for some classes other than College Board with their $97 tests. 

     Recently some schools have offered dual enrollment courses, or DE courses instead, which is a great first step. These classes allow students to take courses from a local community college or state college while staying on their high school campus, and get college credits for that course.

     These classes are significantly cheaper, and even free depending on the course. The college classes that you get credit for are usually from Sierra or Sac State, with enrollment being free for Sierra and around $37 for some Sac State courses such as AP Computer Science Principles or AP Computer Science A. This is one of the few AP courses that are also dual enrollment, and very few students in those courses opt to take the AP exam instead of the DE credit.

     However, students can only take one DE course a semester, and not every subject offers them. Some classes don’t offer DE credits for every grade level either. AP Computer Science Principles requires applicants for DE credit to be juniors or seniors, but those who took the class sophomore year are stuck.

     AP Computer Science Principles is the second course in the computer science pathway, so there were several sophomores in that course, including me back in 2020, who had to buy the $97 AP exam instead of the $37 Sac State application fee – even though we were all taking the same class.

      Until more DE classes are offered and more are allowed per semester, students have no choice but to rely on College Board for college prep. Not only should this technically be illegal since it’s a monopoly, it forces hundreds of thousands of kids worldwide to fork up money for tests they aren’t even guaranteed to pass.

     Students and teachers alike complain relentlessly about College Board, with seemingly no power to make any meaningful change. It’s been around since 1899, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere; neither will the drained pockets of exhausted high school students just wanting some college prep.