Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

May 28, 2021

Susan Paterno has published a scathing article at Forbes ("Dropping SAT Won’t Diminish College Board Clout") which examines the practices and the finances of the College Board.


After the University of California abandoned high-stakes admission tests this week, cheers and jeers followed. Testing opponents cited research proving tests advantage affluent white and Asian-American students. Testing supporters insisted killing tests is akin to “shooting the messenger.”

The College Board’s spokesman Zach Goldberg defended the company’s multi-million-dollar-revenue-generating SAT in the New York Times, blaming “the system,” not tests, for inequities in American education.

Absent from the debate is how the College Board, which owns the SAT, profits from the education system it has criticized. The company wields tremendous power over what’s taught in high school and who gets into college. Yet most people know nothing about how this $1.1-billion nonprofit has built an educational empire with public money and little transparency.

“The College Board operates as a nontransparent, unelected, unregulated, publicly funded federal regulator of K-12 curriculum and gatekeeper to higher education,” said Akil Bello, a senior director at FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. “The Department of Education needs to investigate it, regulate it and break it up.”

Promoting equity and access—central to the nonprofit’s mission—allows the College Board to collect public money at every turn kids take on the road to college and to amass millions of dollars from states, school districts and families without paying taxes.

The company begins building its customer base in kindergarten, marketing college and career readiness across the K-12 pipeline. The PSAT, offered in middle school and ninth grade, is the gateway to the high-stakes SAT. The company sells even more products to promote its largest income generator, Advanced Placement—curriculum purporting to substitute for college courses.

Aggressive lobbying has convinced lawmakers to replace government-mandated high school achievement tests with the SAT in numerous states—at taxpayer expense. Those state contracts let the College Board bring in more taxpayer money and reclaim dominance over its main competitor, the ACT.

Where do all those hundreds of millions of SAT and AP dollars go? Think Caymans.

The College Board’s complex finances are so cloaked in mystery even a forensic accountant could only partially decipher them. The company has more than $1 billion in cash and investments, according to its last publicly released tax return.

Investments in hedge funds and partnerships with anonymous investors quintupled to $675 million over four years. About $162 million is in tax havens in the Caribbean and an unknown amount sits in secret accounts on the tropical island of Mauritius. Chief Executive Officer David Coleman’s total compensation was $1.8 million and President Jeremy Singer’s package more than $1 million in 2018, the most recent data available. Top College Board executives fly first class.

“Most people have no idea that this is going on,” said FairTest’s Robert Schaeffer, who has testified in state hearings on College Board practices. “The College Board is extremely good at circling the wagons and protecting itself.”

Thanks to its suite of AP products, the College Board has the potential to profit even more during the pandemic. As the influence of the SAT and ACT wanes, admission decisions—including scholarships—will be based on how well students perform in GPA-boosting AP classes and on the annual marathon of expensive AP exams that continue through June.

Three states (Washington, Colorado, and Montana) have removed requirements that applicants to their state colleges and universities submit SAT/ACT scores.

Colorado has not only removed the SAT/ACT requirement, but has also banned legacy admissions:


Colorado’s public colleges and universities are no longer required to consider SAT or ACT scores for first-time freshmen during the admissions process under a new law signed Tuesday.

Gov. Jared Polis also signed another bill, HB21-1173, that makes Colorado the first state to prevent legacy admissions at its public universities.

Wealthier families are more likely to be able to afford SAT or ACT tutoring and to live in better-funded school districts that produce college applicants with higher scores. They’re also more likely to have family legacies at Colorado colleges and universities.

“What we’re finding in institutions of higher education is that it’s better to have a holistic approach to admissions,” Polis said. “We need to make sure that admissions practices are equitable.”

All of Colorado’s public colleges and universities backed the test-score bill, HB21-1067. And many school districts cancelled these standardized tests during the pandemic, so the higher education institutions have had something of a head start to observe how the new law will work in practice.

This new law preserves the option for an applicant to submit an SAT or ACT score when they apply — and brings Colorado in line with other state university systems in places like Oregon and California. HB21-1067 goes into effect immediately.

The legacy-admissions bill, meanwhile, is set to go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns its session, which will happen at some point before June 12.

The Washington news is here:


All four-year public universities in Washington will adopt permanent test-optional policies beginning fall 2021, according to a joint statement by the Washington State Council of Presidents.

“We affirm that students will not be penalized during the admissions process nor will student eligibility for institutional supported scholarships, course placement or admissions to Honors programs be impacted due to the absence of a SAT or ACT standardized test score,” the statement reads.

The announcement is signed by leaders at eight public Washington universities, including Central Washington University, the University of Washington (UW), and Washington State University.

“We believe it would be better for our applicants to spend all that extra time studying for their classes or doing coursework or maybe take an additional class rather than spend extra time studying for this test,” Paul Seegert, director of admissions at UW, told The Seattle Times.

The Montana news is here:


Schools in the Montana University System this week joined a growing national trend of ending test requirements for first-time undergraduate students.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously Thursday to approve a permanent change to the admissions policy after it instituted a one-year pause on requiring standardized test scores in April 2020 due to the pandemic.

Students can voluntarily choose to submit ACT or SAT scores for other scholarships and to demonstrate math and writing skills to determine course placements. ACT scores will still be required for MUS Honors Scholarships.

Previously, ACT or SAT scores were required for undergraduate students attending one of the university system’s four-year campuses.
The university system will continue its partnership with the Office of Public Instruction to offer the ACT to Montana high school students for free through 2024. The Office of Public Instruction uses the ACT as part of its statewide assessments.

The University of North Carolina system has announced a more modest policy change, making the submission of SAT/ACT scores optional for students applying for the fall of 2022.

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has announced the adoption of a 5-year test optional policy.


The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will not require students to submit an ACT or SAT test score when applying to the university through the fall 2025 admissions cycle, the university announced Thursday.

UT made a similar change to their application process last July in response to the coronavirus pandemic, when many tests were delayed or canceled. Applicants applying for the fall 2021 semester were not required to submit a test score. Now, UT has extended that change through fall 2025.

“Though we believe admissions tests do provide additional validity to our decisions, we also understand the tests are just one part of a student’s story. This five-year test-optional policy will allow us to collect data and assess how effective admissions tests are for our population of students,” said Fabrizio D’Aloisio, associate vice provost for enrollment management and executive director of Undergraduate Admissions.