College Board Changes AP Registration Rules

Dakota Castro-Jarrett

With the new school year beginning, many students will be taking AP classes. With so many people taking so many AP classes, it’s important to be aware of changes taking place. Between the registration date being moved to November 4th and late fees being charged, there are many strong opinions going around. 

Kashif Henderson, a Pittsburgh Public School Board official, who previously worked on projects geared towards helping low-income kids pushed a plan to allow more low-income kids to take the AP exams in their AP classes. This in theory sounds nice, but the new plan would’ve fined and pushed out the low-income kids who did not take the test. This plan will not happen due to intense backlash from teachers, families, and students. 

Despite these plans being canceled, the College Board itself is enacting its own changes that are actually going through. The big change it is implementing is a move of the application date from January to November. The College Board website has justified these changes with multiple vague statistics and graphs. One line states “We saw an increase in scores of 3 or higher across multiple groups.” It’s impossible to know if these results are an actual increase in percentages of high scores or if they are just a result of having more kids total take the exam. The graph associated with this line does use percentages but it has no labels to indicate that it is referring to the same statistics. These vague statistics raise questions as to the College Board’s real motives in moving the registration dates to early in the year. Could it be possible that the College Board is simply moving these dates up so more kids will feel pressured to take the test which leads to more money for them? Or is it truly what they say and is their only intention in moving the dates to get more kids, specifically kids belonging to a minority group, to take the test? Or could it be a mix of both?

No matter how much we would love to be able to answer these questions definitively we don’t really have any proof to judge what the true motive is. Some, including the College Board itself, may say that the profit concern is ridiculous considering the fact that the College Board is a non-profit. It is true that the College Board is technically a non-profit in the eyes of the IRS, it is well known that the label of a non-profit isn’t really an accurate term to describe the College Board.  The College Board essentially has a monopoly in administering exams that are used to help high schoolers get into colleges – such as the AP exams and the SATs. This allows them to become a remarkably profitable non-profit. 

According to their own financial reports, the College Board generated a revenue of almost $1.1 billion in 2017 for the administration of their exams alone, which resulted in a total year profit of $139 million. The president of the College Board, Jeremy Singer,  makes over $1 million a year, while its executives make anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 according to Financial Samurai. Add this to the fact that they made another $1.1 billion in investments in 2017, the ever-increasing price of the APs and some shady hedge fund business (see Nonpartisan Education Review’s article “Does College Board Deserve Public Subsidies” for more on why many people have doubts about the College Boards’ title as a non-profit.)

While it is impossible for the public to know for sure the true motive of the College Board in changing the registration date, based on the obvious profit motivations mentioned above it is clear that it played a role in their decision. 

When teachers were asked about the possible motivations of the College Board in this decision they were all reluctant to say that one motivation, like profit, was a clear reason. But they did agree on the fact that profit most likely had at least a hand in the decision to change the date.

Several teachers have raised concerns about these changed dates. In interviews with Mr. Shultenbrande and Mr. Deuschle, they both stressed their worry about how these move-ups might affect the students in their AP classes. While it’s impossible to know what has yet to happen, it’s likely that students in AP classes may feel pressured to take the test when asked to register at such an early time in the year. This could lead to families of students, from Allderdice and around the US, who probably wouldn’t have taken the exams in the first place, spending money on an exam that many of them won’t pass. This new pressure combined with the pressure that many kids feel to join AP classes because of the slow disestablishment of CAS classes for social studies classes is a recipe for a waste of money for many Allderdice families and a gain in profit for the College Board. 

Perhaps what the College Board states on their website is accurate. Ideally these date changes are actually a good thing and will help more students pass the test. But based on the less than generous motivations that have controlled College Board decisions in the past, it is reasonable to question the truth of this claim.