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In the 1980s, it was expected that a college graduate would be able to pay back their whole tuition 5 years after having graduated. In today’s society, paying back a college tuition in 5 years is nearly impossible as the cost to attend universities can be as high as $80,000 a year. Because of this, many students are stuck basing their future college off the price of attendance rather than the quality of the education they would be provided with. This prioritization of quantity over quality in the education system, however, is not solely limited to colleges. For example, high schoolers are burdened by standardized examinations that can cost them hundreds of dollars a year (neglecting the additional costs of review material and tutors). But how exactly has this capitalization of learning affected educational institutions, specifically that of high school?
Standardized Exams: The College Board
Every year, students are encouraged to “get ahead” in their academic career by enrolling in an Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The courses entail material that requires a deeper level of understanding and analysis in comparison to regular classes. Consequently, the workload compensates for this advanced level of material, as students can find themselves spending hours a night completing homework from a single AP class. When you put this into perspective, a student that takes about 5 APs can expect to spend grueling hours completing homework assignments or even completing projects that go along with the course. While these courses do provide students with a way to further develop their intelligence and explore topics at new levels, they don’t always pay off.
At the end of each AP class, students are expected to take an AP exam that costs $94 (a cost that seems to increase every year, placing even more burden on enrolled students). Essentially, each exam assesses a student’s ability to replicate and apply the skills they had learned throughout the year in hopes of having them score well. The tests are scored on a 1-5 scale (1= unqualified, 2= possibly qualified, 3= qualified, 4= well qualified, and 5= extremely well qualified). However, the tests are not scored solely on the basis of the percentage of questions a student answers correctly, as how well a student performs compared to the thousands of others taking the exam is a determining factor as well. Students are therefore competing to do better than one another in attempts to attain a 5, the “ideal” score for applying to college. Teachers instruct their students on how they can stay ahead of other schools and supply them with strategies to make their work better than that of other students. For that reason, the meaning of AP courses is contradictory. If the courses are designed as ways for students to advance themselves intellectually, why is a quantitative value, based on how well students can compete with thousands of others, the sole manifestation of all of their hard work? Are students not being conditioned to be able to outdo other students and even their peers, rather than receiving a quality information? Not only that, one has to consider the fact that students pay hundreds of dollars to take these exams that are supposedly crucial to their acceptance into college, and spend excessive amounts on additional review materials that are also marketed by the College Board.
Thus, the prioritization of monetary earning over qualitative learning demonstrates the lack of authenticity within the American education system. The College Board pressures students to take their courses because they exclaim college acceptance is determined by how well a student scores on their AP exams. The College Board’s desire to make money from their $94 exams and plethora of review books contradicts the intrinsic meaning of the courses. Education is not meant to be a capitalized industry. Our future doctors, lawyers, business owners, etc. are the products of this increasingly corrupt system, yet we as a society have done little to reverse such depravity.
Knowledge is ubiquitous; it may or may not lie in the education the College Board provides us, but it exists perpetually around us.