Memo to the media: Let's be clear on what the College Board is

The College Board released its annual report on tuition for the 2008-2009 school year and, no big surprise, it's getting worse.

According to the Associated Press, "Average tuition at four-year public colleges in the U.S. climbed 6.5 percent, or $429, to $7,020 this fall as schools apologetically passed on much of their own financial problems, according to an annual report from the College Board, released Tuesday. At private colleges, tuition rose 4.4 percent, or $1,096, to $26,273."

But just so that we have the frame of reference right, we need to be very clear on what exactly the College Board is -- because most people don't quite understand. According to AP, the College Board is a "not-for-profit, which promotes college access and owns the SAT tries to strike a balance. It tries to sound the alarm about rising prices without scaring students into thinking college is out of reach."
Other news outlets reporting on this story don't even bother to explain what the College Board is. But here, straight from the Web site, is what the College Board is: "A not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the association is composed of more than 5,400 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations." (emphasis added)

So let's be clear: We're talking about a report produced by a college trade group, discussing college prices.

That's like the Exxon-Mobil report on rising gas prices: "Don't worry! Just keep buying it! Everything will be fine!"

And that line from AP about how the College Board is trying to "strike a balance" "without scaring students"? Here's a tip for those students: Don't trust anyone who has a not so vested interest in lying to you. The College Board is a trade group representing the interests of colleges -- and more applications and more enrollments are certainly in the best interests of the College Board's members.

In general, consumers should be very careful about studies produced by non-profits because nearly every trade group is a non-profit.

The National Association of Realtors isn't for profit, but it does represent people who make a living selling houses. Its economists provided woefully unbalanced "analysis" of the housing industry, and were a driving force behind that real estate bubble that destroyed so much wealth.

The International Tobacco Growers Association is also a non-profit -- but you should still be skeptical of any data it might release on the effects of smoking.
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