Commercialization of Education

Heidi Jin, Staff Writer 

The U.S. is one of the few countries with commercialized public education, allowing privately-owned companies such as the College Board to have an important position in public high schools and college entry processes. Although it was established as a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving students a successful college career, College Board earned huge amounts of profit from the students they served, earning $1.068 billion of revenue in 2017 alone.
Public education should not be a for-profit industry. Rather, it should focus on giving students better and more affordable education that can prepare them for college.
The education industry has a total value of nearly $7 trillion as of 2017 (IBIS Capital Data). This money was spent to expose students to a variety of career paths and allow them to choose one as their major in college. However, companies like College Board used a large part of it as their company executives’ salaries and focused more on their revenue rather than the quality of education they provide. College Board pays its nineteen executives each more than $300,000 per year and 1.3 million per year to its CEO (Bloomberg). If the majority of this money can be paid to help students afford their College Board exams and textbooks, students who do not have a fee waiver can take their exams at a lower price and reduce the financial burden that College Board fees bring to their families. Paying so much to its Board of Trustees, College Board seemed to forget its initial purpose of serving the students and developed itself into a large business corporation rather than a nonprofit organization.
Some may argue that the education industry contributed to America’s economy by reducing unemployment rate and providing job opportunities to millions of people. In 2019, about 3,829,000 Americans are hired to work for companies in the education industry (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Indeed, the positive impacts of making education a profitable industry are beneficial to the economic development by solving some unemployment issues. If the education industry does not exist, 3,829,000 Americans who are supposed to be employed by educational companies may be jobless. However, students across the nation are looking for more affordable and higher quality public education, where the money paid to these employees in educational companies can have a much greater impact on America’s economy. For example, if the $1.3 million package that is supposed to be paid to its CEO can be used to increase the amount of fee waivers available for students, about 20,000 students can take their SAT with essay for free in addition to the existing fee waivers (College Board). This money could possibly allow more students to take required exams for college entrance and choose to go to college rather than finishing their education career with a four-year high school degree. A college education can create a more successful career for these students, which both helps them and the society around them.
Most colleges and universities across the world made their entrance exams free for all high school graduates, such as University of Oxford and Peking University in China. Charging fees for college entry exams is an socio-economic inequality that many countries have prohibited. Fee waiver is an option when purchasing SAT and ACT, but some families may still face difficulties in paying the exam fee even if they do not qualify for the fee reduction. Students who can afford multiple retakes have an advantage over those whose families can only afford one. With multiple retakes, most students tend to have a higher score than those who only take the exam once. Educational inequality should not be encouraged in the college entry process, especially in the college entry exams.
Commercializing any stage of education is a detriment to most students. Higher test prices creates distinct advantages for students coming from wealthier backgrounds. A possible solution that reduces some degrees of educational inequality could be to regulate college entrance exams through either the federal government or through individual states. Government regulation would minimize the role that money plays in college entry processes and all college entry exams would be lower in price in order to reduce students’ financial barrier to enter a college. The purpose of these exams would change from earning more the most revenue to providing fairer and better quality educational services to students.