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the College Entrance Examination Board - Members and Governance, Programs and Services, Newer Ventures and Future Outlook

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The College Entrance Examination Board, or College Board, is a national, nonprofit membership association with a mission of preparing, inspiring, and connecting students to college and opportunity. The College Board assists students in the school-to-college transition by helping them prepare academically for, and enter, colleges and universities. It also endeavors to aid international students in their transition to U.S. colleges; provide information on financial aid; help colleges identify, recruit, and place students; and assist educators in public policy development and advocacy. In addition, the organization sponsors educational research.

At its founding in 1900 the College Board had a membership of twelve institutions of higher education. The goal was to provide a common set of entrance examinations to be used by colleges to make admissions decisions. The first fifty secondary schools were admitted to membership in 1959. As of the beginning of the twenty-first century the association comprised more than 3,900 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations.

Members and Governance

The College Board has three types of members. The first type, institutions, includes schools, colleges, and universities. Secondary and higher education systems are the second type. Finally, the third type of member, nonprofit organizations, encompasses agencies, associations, and education departments. Membership requirements differ according to type. Institutions of higher education, for example, must be accredited and document regular and substantial use of College Board programs and services such as the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, SAT, or College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). Members are elected annually at the College Board's membership meeting.

The College Board is governed by an elected board of trustees, officers appointed by that board, and staff appointed by the College Board president. The board of trustees includes faculty and administrators of secondary schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. Appointed officers include the president, a president emeritus, secretary of the corporation, senior vice president for operation and finance, senior vice president for development, and vice presidents for government relations, research and development, communications/public affairs, academic initiatives, regions, chief of staff, teaching and learning, higher education services and international services, and human resources.

Programs and Services

While provision of national, uniform entrance examinations has always been an important function of the College Board, programs and services have expanded considerably throughout the years. The organization provides major programs and services in (1) college admission and enrollment (e.g., Admitted Class Evaluation Service, Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test [PSAT/NMSQT]); (2) guidance (e.g., Career Search); (3) financial aid (e.g., College Scholarship Service and Institutional Need Analysis System); (4) placement and advising (e.g., CLEP); and (5) teaching and learning (e.g., EQUITY 2000 and Pacesetter). These programs and services are described, and most are made available, on the College Board website.

Perhaps its best-known program, the Scholastic Aptitude Test was first administered in 1926, was renamed the Scholastic Assessment Test in 1992, and then became known simply as the SAT. Taken by more than 1 million students annually throughout fall, winter, and spring, the SAT is a standardized test required for admission by many colleges and universities. The College Board owns the SAT and contracts with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop and administer the SAT and other standardized tests. There is no "passing score" on the SAT. Instead, individual institutions determine how to weight the SAT among other admissions factors including high school rank and grade point average, essays, and interviews. In 1929 the test was divided into verbal and math subtests. The three-hour SAT I: Reasoning Tests and one-hour SAT II: Subject Tests were developed in 1990. Subjects in the SAT II include writing, literature, U.S. history, world history, math, biology, chemistry, physics, and languages.

The PSAT was first administered in 1959 and was combined with the NMSQT in 1971. The PSAT/NMSQT is designed to measure critical reading, math problem solving, and writing skills. In addition to practicing for the SAT, students may also qualify for scholarships and other recognition based on their test scores. The PSAT/NMSQT is typically taken by high school juniors.

The AP Program, through which high school students can take college-level courses and earn college credit or advanced placement in over thirty subject areas, is among the College Board's other well-known programs. The first AP exams were administered in 1956.

The College Scholarship Service provides programs and services to help colleges, universities, and scholarship programs distribute student financial aid in an equitable way. Financial aid profiles and computer software programs are among the service's offerings.

Newer Ventures and Future Outlook

Former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton was named president of the College Board in 1999. Caperton launched the College Board website, a for-profit Internet venture that offers online SAT registration, practice tests, college searches, online college applications, career exploration tools, and information on college costs and financial aid. ETS has made a significant financial investment in the venture. Rival organizations contend that the site can provide only limited information because the College Board comprises member colleges and universities and would not, for instance, recommend that students and parents negotiate a financial aid package.

Caperton and the College Board will play an important role in the future of college admissions. Women and some minority groups have lower average SAT scores, and some claim the test is culturally biased. Furthermore, legal challenges to and the elimination of affirmative action programs in admissions on many campuses are changing the role of the SAT in admissions and therefore the role of the College Board as well. In several states and systems, including California, Texas, and Florida, some colleges and universities are reducing their reliance on the SAT and guaranteeing admission to students finishing in a set percentage near the top of their high school classes. In 2000 the president of the University of California system made a controversial proposal to the faculty there that applicants no longer be required to take the SAT. He proposed a set of admissions criteria that would provide a more holistic assessment of students, be less quantitative, and recognize a broad spectrum of achievement. If the plan is approved, California would be the first system with competitive admissions to drop the SAT requirement. Other states grappling with the same issues will likely pay close attention to what happens there. Undoubtedly, the College Board intends to play an important role in any changes that take place. Its programs and services will continue to adapt to the growing diversity of its clientele.


COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMINATION BOARD. 2000. College Board Annual Report. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.

GOSE, BEN. 1999. "Historic Shift at the College Board as the SAT Faces Fresh Opposition." Chronicle of Higher Education 46 (17):A51–A52.

WILDAVSKY, BEN; KLEINER, CAROLYN; HARTIGAN, RACHEL; PERRY, JOELLEN; MARCUS, DAVID L.; LORD, MARY C; and BOSER, ULRICH. 2001. "Reining in the Test of Tests." U.S. News and World Report 130 (9):46–50.




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