Two Faces of the College Board

University Testing

A “drive to do well commercially dominates the current direction of the College Board,” according to an opinion column by former University of California Berkeley Admissions Director Bob Laird featured in the Spring, 2004 issue of CrossTalk, published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.


“Two Faces of the College Board” argues that the non-profit organization “oscillates constantly between the magnetic poles of wanting to do good and wanting to do well.” It concludes, “Now, the needle has swung sharply toward achieving maximum revenue, and the Board’s venal streak throbs and pulses powerfully.”


Laird shows how the Board has been drawn down a “slippery conflict-of-interest slope” promoting test preparation products for its exams while claiming that coaching did not work. He also documents a variety of ways the Board softens up admissions officials by appointing them to special panels which meet at private dinners in fine restaurants and by sponsoring free invitation-only conferences at fancy locations such as the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and even overseas junket tours.


“It is hard to admit how attractive the perks and status are, and the Board never says, in so many words, ‘In return for your trip to Shanghai or Myanmar, we expect you to support our products,’” Laird observes. “It is done much more by making friendships, by including you in important meetings and conferences in extraordinary locations at the Board’s expense, and by building a subtle sense of obligation, so that it would be hard to disappoint such nice and generous people who have done so much for you.”