EDITORIAL: The Cost of a Free Education

By: Emily Davis

My high school experience has been, in a word, expensive. My senior year, in particular, has been plagued by numerous fees for college applications and standardized exams. I now found myself marveling at the cost of my free education and wondering who exactly is profiting.  

Pearson is a publishing and testing service that nearly every American student has encountered. It owns various other publishing companies such as Penguin, Scott Foresman, Harcourt, and Prentice Hall, as well as other programs such as Adobe Press, Poptropica, Longman, Wharton, Puffin, and Allyn & Bacon. In short, Pearson dominates the textbook market, as well as a considerable portion of the American public school system. Pearson Education, essentially, is an educational monopoly.

The Huffington Post recently reported that the price of textbooks have increased 812% over the last thirty years alone. This figure is even higher than the rise of college tuition. Pearson, a large producer of these textbooks, has been accused of printing new editions close together for profit, requiring students to continually buy new books and sell them the following year as a much cheaper price. Pearson, although continually growing in profits, has suffered numerous lawsuits from states and their school systems for incorrectly scored exams and flawed tests.

Additionally, Pearson, along with Microsoft, has been a strong proponent of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Through this program, which stresses standardized testing, Pearson profits. Pearson is presiding over the future of American education and making big bucks.  

College Board is guilty of monopolizing post-secondary education testing too. Although the college prep service was created in order to equalize the playing field for students of all economic backgrounds, many facets of the organization’s services seem to widen the gap.

The test prep industry has grown astronomically that to the rising collegiate demand for SAT and AP scores, both of which are administered for a fee by College Board. As the national demand for academic rigor in public schools rises, so too does the stress put on students to get through a myriad of Advanced Placement courses. Although North Carolina students receive fee waivers for such exams, many students nationwide must pay College Board a fee to take each AP test. College Board is a $700 billion dollar private non-profit. College Board has copyrighted its tests, and is the exclusive provider of such tests that colleges often require. This dominance over such a large market surely warrant College Board the status of a monopoly.

The educational world grows increasingly competitive every year. The stress it puts on today’s students is shocking, but that’s an entirely separate issue. The issue at hand is that the stress put on students to pursue education is coming at a large price to themselves and their parents financially. It’s understandable that the production and publishing of nationwide tests and textbooks costs money, but when organizations, particularly those with non-profit status, take clear advantage of our educational systems’ dependence on standardization, it has become a problem.