Posts tagged ‘College Board’

February 13, 2014

Paying for SAT tests can be the first financial hurdle in affording college

by Grace

The cost of SAT and AP tests can easily amount to hundreds of dollars, but low-income students may be eligible for fee waivers.

A high school senior complains about the high costs of College Board tests.

With college-admission deadlines quickly approaching, my debt to the College Board keeps growing. Two SAT tests, five subject tests and six Advanced Placement (AP) tests later, I am ready to report my scores through the College Board website to the 10 colleges to which I am applying. On top of the total $102 I paid to take the SAT, $114 for the subject tests, and $534 for the AP tests, the College Board now demands $11.25 for each electronic submission of the test scores to the schools on my list.

That makes a total of $750, including the $100-plus needed for electronic scores submission.  Are these fees too high? 

The College Board should behave more like the nonprofit it claims to be. Lowering the cost of the SAT would encourage more students whose parents make modest incomes to retake the test and compete against students from higher income households who often take the test upward of four times, aiming for higher scores. (I took the test twice.)

The total cost of applying of applying to college can easily reach thousands of dollars, creating a strain for many low- and middle-income families.  On the other hand, doing well on an AP test can generate college credit for a student, presenting a substantial value when compared to the typical cost of college tuition.

The College Board offers fee waivers for lower-income students who meet their criteria.

Related:  A recommended schedule for taking the SAT, ACT, and AP tests (Cost of College)

October 17, 2013

Trend of high school grades compared to SAT scores

by Grace

Over the long term, average high school grades have gone up while SAT scores have “remained relatively unchanged”.

Average SAT scores going back to 1952, courtesy of Erik Jacobsen, also known as Erik the Red:



The solid circles and triangles represent scores calculated on the recentered scale.

In April 1995, the College Board recentered the score scales for all tests in the SAT Program to reflect the contemporary test-taking population. Recentering reestablished the average score for a study group of 1990 seniors at about 500—the midpoint of the 200-to-800 scale—allowing students, schools, and colleges to more easily interpret their scores in relation to those of a similar group of college-bound seniors.

By 1995, average SAT scores had drifted downward before recentering brought them back up.


The effect of recentering was to raise SAT scores for almost all tests taken before 1995.  For example, a 540 verbal score from pre-1995 is equivalent to a 610 by today’s standards.  The impact of recentering was smaller for math, with a pre-1995 math score of 540 translating to 560 today.  All scores can be converted by using the CollegeBoard table.

(A comprehensive history of the SAT and ACT tests going back to the late 1800s is also provided by Erik the Red.)

What about high school grades?  Have they also declined over time?  No, in fact they have risen, especially for students with lower standardized test scores.

…  Studies from ACT and College Board, the companies that run the two preeminent college-entrance exams, show GPAs increased while scores on the standardized ACT and SAT did not, a phenomenon they say likely indicates inflation. ACT estimates the average GPA inflation was about .25 on a scale of 4.0 between 1991 and 2003, though the 2005 study’s authors believe even that number understates the actual amount of grade inflation. Whether from hard work or grade inflation, GPAs grew the most for students with lower standardized test scores, and the least for those with higher scores on the SAT or ACT.


Another source indicates evidence of high school grade inflation over the long term.

Camara, Kimmel, Scheuneman, and Sawtell (2003) investigated grade inflation by using self-reported grade data and SAT scores for eight cohorts of college-bound students. The trend of average HSGPA over time was examined to investigate grade inflation. The authors found that 2002 high school grade point average “far exceeded” the grades students reported in 1976, whereas the SAT-V and SAT-M scores remained relatively unchanged.


May 21, 2013

Getting answers to essential questions about a college’s financial aid policies

by Grace

College financial aid policies can vary significantly, so be sure to check with each school.

The CollegeBoard suggests an interested student or parent schedule a phone meeting or an interview with a member of the financial aid staff” to get answers to any questions that are not answered by information on the college website.

A list of 12 questions to get you started on gathering information is provided.  In my experience, the answers to most of these questions can usually be found on college websites, so be sure to check there before you make a call.

A dozen questions to get you started:

  1. What’s the average total cost — including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, travel, and other personal expenses — for the first year
  2. How much have your costs increased over the last three years?
  3. Does financial need have an effect on admission decisions?
  4. What is the priority deadline to apply for financial aid and when am I notified about financial aid award decisions?
  5. How is financial aid affected if I apply under an early decision or early action program?
  6. Does the college offer need-based and merit-based financial aid?
  7. Are there scholarships available that aren’t based on financial need and do I need to complete a separate application for them?
  8. If the financial aid package the college offers isn’t enough, are there any conditions under which it can be reconsidered, such as changes in my family’s financial situation or my enrollment status (or that of a family member)?
  9. How does the aid package change from year to year?
  10. What are the terms of the programs included in the aid package?
  11. What are the academic requirements or other conditions for the renewal of financial aid, including scholarships?
  12. When can I expect to receive bills from the college and is there an option to spread the yearly payment over equal monthly installments?

If you want to be super organized, you can create a spreadsheet with all relevant data.

April 25, 2013

How to get more high-achieving, poor students to attend selective colleges

by Grace

Most high-achieving students from low-income families are not attending top colleges, and top colleges are not aggressively recruiting these students.

Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.

The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so.

Racial diversity is a higher priority than socioeconomic diversity in college recruiting efforts.

Colleges currently give little or no advantage in the admissions process to low-income students, compared with more affluent students of the same race, other research has found….

The solution – inform students about their college options.

Sending basic information to low-income, high-achieving high school students increased their enrollment rate in top colleges.

Among a control group of low-income students with SAT scores good enough to attend top colleges — but who did not receive the information packets — only 30 percent gained admission to a college matching their academic qualifications. Among a similar group of students who did receive a packet, 54 percent gained admission, according to the researchers, Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Sarah E. Turner of the University of Virginia.

College counseling on the cheap, with an emphasis on affordability

Ms. Hoxby and Ms. Turner designed the 40,000 information packets they mailed — as well as follow-up material — as a low-cost, customized version of the college counseling that upper-income students take for granted. The packets explained application deadlines and student qualifications at a range of colleges. Students also received coupons to waive application fees — which had a particularly big effect. “We wanted students to find schools for themselves,” Ms. Hoxby said.

The College Board may soon begin replicating this strategy as a way to match low-income students with colleges that match their academic profile.

A little more help may be needed
Based on some reader comments in the quoted articles and on my own limited experience working with low-income students, many of them also need a mentor to help handle the many details involved in the college application process.  This is something that affluent helicopter parents typically do for their own children.

Related:  Fewer poor students at top colleges (Cost of College)


December 26, 2012

Quick Links – more homeless young adults; reports on trends in college financial aid

by Grace

◊◊◊  Growing number of homeless young people is tied to high unemployment rate.

Across the country, tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college credits or work histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24 with the highest unemployment rate of all adults.

Exact numbers are hard to come by, but some cities have tried to measure the trend.

Boston also attempted counts in 2010 and 2011. The homeless young adult population seeking shelter grew 3 percentage points to 12 percent of the 6,000 homeless people served over that period.

In some cases, a reluctance to move in with parents seems to be the reason for living on the street.  One homeless shelter director describes this group as “high functioning but who’ve been unable to stay on their feet” and “not been able to launch themselves into a successful young adulthood”.

After Recession, More Young Adults Are Living on Street (The New York Times)

 Trends in Student Aid 2012 – College Board

Trends in Student Aid, an annual College Board publication since 1983, is a compendium of detailed, up-to-date information on the funding that is available to help students pay for college. This report documents grant aid from federal and state governments, colleges and universities, employers, and other private sources, as well as loans, tax benefits, and Federal Work-Study Assistance. It examines changes in funding levels over time, reports on the distribution of aid across students with different incomes and attending different types of institutions, and tracks the debt students incur as they pursue the educational opportunities that can increase their earnings, open doors to new experiences, and improve their ability to adapt to an ever-changing society.

Selected Highlights

  • In 2011-12, undergraduate students received an average of $13,218 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in financial aid, including $6,932 in grant aid from all sources, and $5,056 in federal loans.
  • Federal grant aid almost tripled in constant dollars between 2001-02 and 2011-12, increasing from 20% to 26% of the total 185.1 billion in undergraduate aid.
  • Only 2% of students who first enrolled in 2003-04 had borrowed more than $50,000 from federal and nonfederal sources combined by 2009. Over 40% did not borrow and another 25% borrowed $10,000 or less.

 Merit Aid for Undergraduates: Trends from 1995–96 to 2007–08 (National Center for Education Statistics)

This Statistics in Brief uses nationally representative data from 1995–96, 1999–2000, 2003–04 and 2007–08 to examine trends in merit aid to undergraduates by student and institutional characteristics and in comparison to need-based grant aid.

October 16, 2012

College literacy skills in a nutshell?

by Grace

Joanne Jacobs summarized incoming College Board president David Coleman’s view on what a high school curriculum should look like.

Coleman wants students to read challenging materials and learn to answer questions by citing the text, not chatting about their personal experiences.

That seems to describe in a nutshell the literacy skills that students need for college.

Coleman sees a serious problem with how public schools are failing to prepare students for college-level work.

…  He often cites data from ACT scores, which this year showed that only one in every four American high-school graduates is ready to do college-level reading, writing, science, and computation. He also refers to research by the Minnesota College Readiness Center’s Paul Carney, who found that almost a third of college students enrolled in his college’s remedial writing courses had actually earned above-average grades in high-school English. The gap was partly due to the different types of writing valued by high schools and colleges: while high-school teachers rewarded students for the organization and wording of their essays, college professors placed greater value on strong thesis statements backed by evidence from the curriculum. This mismatch of expectations helps explain why 20 percent of incoming freshmen at four-year colleges, and about half at community colleges, are assigned to non-credit-bearing remedial courses.

High school poster projects instead of writing instruction
In related news, one local high school student I know is working on her fourth “poster” project since school started about a month ago.  So far she has been aked to create a collage, illustrate a literary theme, and make posters in her English and history classes.  This school claims they focus on college prep, and their yearly spending per pupil is about $23,000.  Meanwhile, they have been sending out advertisements to parents promoting writing and SAT prep classes taught by their high school teachers at costs of $275 and $575, respectively.  Do their students need this extra tutoring because they’re spending too much time on poster projects in school?  I wonder.

October 3, 2012

Quick links – SAT scores continue to drop, affirmative action questioned, the downside of smartphones, more

by Grace

 ‘SAT reading scores hit a four-decade low’ (Washington Post)

Reading scores on the SAT for the high school class of 2012 reached a four-decade low, putting a punctuation mark on a gradual decline in the ability of college-bound teens to read passages and answer questions about sentence structure, vocabulary and meaning on the college entrance exam.

Many experts attribute the continued decline to record numbers of students taking the test, including about one-quarter from low-income backgrounds. There are many factors that can affect how well a student scores on the SAT, but few are as strongly correlated as family income.

Scores among every racial group except for those of Asian descent declined from 2006 levels. A majority of test takers — 57 percent — did not score high enough to indicate likely success in college, according to the College Board, the organization that administers the test.

—  Critics charge that there is a ‘Research War on Affirmative Action’ (Inside Higher Ed)

Several studies presented Friday at the Brookings Institution suggested that eliminating the consideration of race would not have as dramatic an effect on minority students as some believe, and that the beneficiaries of affirmative action may in fact achieve less academic success than they would otherwise. The studies were criticized by some present for being one-sided.

Criticism was aimed at two studies with controversial conclusions:

  1. There seems to be no “chilling effect” as a result of doing away with affirmative action.  The yield rate for minority students who were admitted based on “race-neutral” standards actually increased after the affirmative action ban took effect.
  2. Strong evidence was presented for the harmful effects of affirmative action “mismatch” –  the idea “that minority students who are admitted to better institutions because of affirmative action may end up with lower academic achievement as a result”.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing the affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin this month.

—  ACT now more popular than the SAT (

—  ‘Pack More in a Day By Matching Tasks To the Body’s Energy’ (WSJ)

A growing body of research suggests that paying attention to the body clock, and its effects on energy and alertness, can help pinpoint the different times of day when most of us perform our best at specific tasks, from resolving conflicts to thinking creatively.

This is definitely true for me:

When it comes to doing cognitive work, for example, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Kay. As body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness and concentration gradually improve. Taking a warm morning shower can jump-start the process.

—  ‘Why It’s Bad That Smartphones Have Banished Boredom’ (Slashdot)

For one thing, we talk less with people while standing in line.

—  Women continue to earn the majority of advanced degrees, but this is apparently not viewed as a problem

Professor Mark J. Perry sees a problem.

… But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education.  The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on cases when women, not men, are underrepresented.

October 26, 2011

New York SAT cheating scandal is expected to lead to more arrests

by Grace

A former FBI chief is coming in to help clean up the SAT cheating mess.

Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board and a former governor of West Virginia, said that in addition to bringing in the former F.B.I. chief, Louis J. Freeh, as a consultant, the College Board was also considering additional safeguards over the next year, including bolstering identification requirements for students taking the SAT and taking digital photographs to ensure they are who they say they are.

Some educators think this action is long overdue and are calling for harsher penalties.

“The procedures E.T.S. uses to give the test are grossly inadequate in terms of security,” Bernard Kaplan, principal of Great Neck North, testified at the hearing. “Furthermore, E.T.S.’s response when the inevitable cheating occurs is grossly inadequate. Very simply, E.T.S. has made it very easy to cheat, very difficult to get caught.”

While the new security measures represent a change of tone for College Board and Educational Testing Service officials who previously insisted their system was adequate, some superintendents and principals said they did not go far enough. These officials have called for fingerprinting students, increasing stipends for proctors and imposing real consequences on those who cheat. Currently, if the testing service suspects cheating, the students’ scores are canceled and they are permitted to retake the test — with no notification to either their high school or colleges where they apply.

Educational Testing Service is already spending about 10% of its budget on security for College Board testing, but whatever they’re doing may not be adequate.  Bernard Kaplan, principal of the high school where the cheating occurred, says this about the problem.

“It is ridiculously easy to take the test for someone else” 

Many young people have fake IDs, which are commonly  “being bought in bulk from vendors in China” and “nearly undetectable by bar employees”.  I imagine SAT test proctors also find it hard to spot them.

Related:  Student cheating – the SAT, the Internet, and Ted Kennedy

(Cross-posted at Kitchen Table Math)


August 2, 2011

Student names are worth 33 cents each to colleges

by Grace

The College Board sells names to more than 1,000 colleges, using biographical information students provide when they register for the preliminary SAT and SAT exams. Students can opt out of having their names in the company’s search service. The company and its competitor, Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT Inc., both nonprofit, sell names for 33 cents apiece.

July 26, 2011

SAT scores matter, even for test-optional colleges

by Grace

Do SAT scores matter in college applications?  Although students often hear that admissions officers place a relatively low priority on test scores and that the trend is toward “test-optional” admissions, it’s clear that performance on standardized tests remains important.   Inside Higher Ed had this recent report.

Many of the same colleges that have ended SAT requirements, noting that wealthy students tend to do well on the exam and that many black and Latino students succeed in college while not doing well on it, may trust the SAT in other ways. These colleges buy the names of high-scoring students from the College Board (and from the ACT) and use those names to recruit prospective studentsBloomberg reported. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College (which neither requires the SAT nor buys names), criticized the practice. “They take a stance that looks principled but is strategic,” Botstein told Bloomberg. “They say ‘I’m going to show myself to be open,’ but in reality they’re completely buying into the definition of a good student that is guided by the test.”

From Bloomberg:

Students are being duped by some schools into thinking that test scores don’t matter, when they matter a great deal for marketing outreach and prestige…. Test-optional colleges that buy names of high-scoring students are hypocritical….

Another benefit to test-optional colleges of recruiting students with high test results is that it can help raise their average entrance-exam scores, a metric used in determining some national rankings and a measure of prestige. Since students who don’t test well may refrain from submitting scores, that leaves high performers, or those who can afford prep courses and pay fees to retake the test several times, to bolster a school’s average scores….

In 2004, Pitzer President Laura Trombley wrote that the SAT “doesn’t really make any sense anymore.” The school, one of seven institutions comprising the Claremont Colleges inCalifornia, ranked 70th in the 2002 U.S. News & World Report list of liberal arts colleges. That year, the school’s average SAT score for verbal and math combined was 1,234, according to Pitzer data. In 2004, after it went test optional, its ranking climbed to 59, while the average score rose to 1,246. By 2010, it ranked 46th, while the score reached 1,293.

“It helped certainly to improve our rankings,” Trombley said. “That’s going to have a positive effect if our SAT scores improved.”

The College of the Holy Cross, which went test-optional in 2006, does not buy names of high-scoring students.

“If we were buying the names of students who scored very high on the SATs, to buy those names would be somewhat contrary to the message we would send about the importance of standardized testing,” McDermott said.

Many merit scholarships require SAT test scores, even at test-optional schools like Wake Forest.  The criteria for several of their merit awards, including the Nancy Susan Reynolds Scholarship, are described on their website.

Successful applicants have pursued the most challenging curriculum available to them and have achieved grade point averages and SAT scores that place them in the top few percentage points in comparison to their peers (often in the top 1 percent of their class, with SAT-1 scores above 1500).

Some test optional colleges that buy student names from testing companies:
American University  —  Bowdoin College  —  Denison University  —  Dickinson College  —  Mount Holyoke College  —  Pitzer College  —  Sewanee: University of the South  —  Smith College  —  Union College  —  University of Arizona  —  Wake Forest University

A response by Laura Skandera Trombley, president of Pitzer College.

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