Paying to get into college

S$16,094. That’s how much senior Kelly Chung spent on SAT prep, SAT tests, AP exams, her TOEFL test and applying to college. To put that into perspective, with that much money, you could fly from Singapore to Bali and back approximately 80 times. Most people know that college is expensive. Really expensive. But the expenses actually start adding up way before the first day of college.  

It’s an interesting predicament, spending thousands of dollars in order to spend thousands more on what people perceive as a ‘good’ education. So, this begs the question, are students paying too much for these college prerequisites?


Senior SunJay Yoo thinks so. “The cost of both AP exams and college apps are ridiculously high. College Board… [has] an unwarranted monopoly on the testing and college application industry,” he said. In total, SunJay has taken 12 AP exams, which comes out to just over $2,300.

AP Psychology exam paper. Creative Commons License.

“I don’t think higher education should be correlated with expensive,” senior Kelly Chung said. “Education is education, a service that everyone deserves… not a luxury. It’s even more expensive for international students because they have to pay for the extra overseas processing fees, but the U.S. fees are still unaffordable for some. It seems that every year, it’s getting more and more difficult to get into top universities. Many students and their parents are willing to pay anything to better their future.”

Of the $16,094 Kelly paid, nearly $15,000 went to the College Board or programs intended to help with College Board testing. “Paying thousands of dollars for a few exams is already frustrating, but what’s more infuriating is the fact that the College Board is listed as a ‘non-profit,’” senior Liam Stanton said. According to GuideStar, the College Board had a gross income of $840,672,990 USD during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and expenses of $741,778,125 USD. That’s a net gain of $98,894,865 USD. Where’s all that money going?

One might assume that because the College Board is a nonprofit,  these excess funds would go to improving programs or offering financial aid. But that’s not the case, which has caused a controversy in the college testing world. Why does a non-profit have net profits in excess of almost 100 million dollars? Perhaps that money could be going to a better cause, like helping low income students. “Going through the process and adding up how much I’ve spent to apply really made me realize how unfair the system is for the majority of [students who] do not have the same privilege,” Kelly said.

Many people feel that the organization’s executives are being paid far too much. In 2009, the College Board’s former president Caston Caperton received a total of $1.3 million USD in compensation. An additional 19 executives got compensation in excess of $300,000.

Senior Vibhav Jagwani said these expenses are “B.S….I find it unreasonable that someone can make so much money off the hard work of [kids].”

Even privileged students at SAS who feel grateful that they have no trouble paying for these exams still feel it’s unfair for big companies to make money off of the hard working students. According to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to education.”

Author: Zack Atlas

Baseball analytics fiend

One thought

  1. Thanks for writing about this Zack. Well written, eye-opening and thought provoking. So many of us at SAS are lucky to be in a position where the parents can afford these costs but like you point out, not everyone is so fortunate.


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