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揭开GMAT考试的暴利之谜

John A. Byrne 2014年02月14日

MBA学位堪称战后最成功的教育产品,应运而生的GMAT考试也随之发展为一桩利润丰厚的全球性大买卖。2012年,GMAT组织方收取了8,770万美元的考试费,但管理考试的成本仅为4,570万美元。也就是说,它的实际毛利率大约为48%,比苹果目前的毛利率高出近11个百分点。

    60年前的1954年2月6日,1,000多名考生坐在全世界100个不同的地方,首次参加一项考试。它正是GMAT(管理学研究生入学考试)的前身,也就是全球顶级商学院事实上的入学考试。

    当时,1,291名潜在学生只需支付10美元的笔试费。考试只在5个国家进行,每年只考3次,考生必须等待3至4个星期,才能拿到成绩。那时候,只有54家商学院接受GMAT成绩。

    今天,计算机自适应GMAT考试的费用已经涨到了250美元,如果考生希望考试成绩被递送给5所以上的院校,他或她就需要为每份成绩单额外支付28美元。113个国家的600多个考点全年无休地进行这项考试。焦虑不安的考生在5到7天内就能收到成绩单,全球超过2,100所院校现在把GMAT成绩作为入学条件之一。

    这项考试爆炸式增长本身映射出了 MBA学位一路看涨、蔚为壮观的受欢迎程度。MBA学位可以说是战后最成功的教育产品。这顶文凭的繁荣使得GMAT考试成为一款热门“产品”。

    对于GMAT考试的监管机构研究生入学管理委员会( Graduate Management Admission Council,下文简称GMAC)而言,这项考试的利润率甚至超过了苹果公司(Apple)的iPad平板电脑和iPhone手机。GMAC表示,它在2012年收取了8,770万美元的考试费,但美国国税局(Internal Revenue Service)的文件显示,GMAC管理这项考试的成本开支仅为4,570万美元。GMAT考试的实际毛利率大约为47.9%,比苹果公司目前的毛利率高出近11个百分点。

    总收入方面,GMAC报告称,它2012年的“项目服务收入”为9,270万美元,较一年前的8,850万美元有所增长。另外,仅“投资收益”一项就达到了3,070万美元。加入其它收入项,GMAC在2012年的总收入为1.251亿美元,较一年前的9,270万美元大幅增长。尽管GMAC是一家没有纳税义务的非营利性组织,但在支付了全年的所有费用后,它的账面还剩余高达2,240万美元的现金。

    GMAC表示,管理这项考试的费用不包括考试设计、成绩报告、考生住宿和运营考生报名网站的成本。“这些都是交付考试所固有的活动,并不在经营费用的核算范围内,”GMAC企业传播事务副总裁里奇•达马托说。“此外,还有一项小开支与履行我们作为一家非营利性组织的责任有关,即推动作为一个研究领域的管理学研究生教育。”

    考试的管理费用也不包括这个组织预算的另一项大开支:GMAC员工的薪金和福利。2012年,GMAC发放的总薪酬高达2,590万美元,而它的员工团队其实仅有141人。

    这家非营利性组织给予其最高领导者非常丰厚的薪酬。去年12月31日卸任的GMAC总裁大卫•威尔逊2012年获得的工资、福利和递延报酬合计1,914,845美元,是哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)院长尼廷•诺里亚2011年薪酬(66.2万美元)的3倍以上。事实上,威尔逊的薪酬远高于教育考试服务中心(Educational Testing Service,下文简称ETS)总裁库尔特•德格拉夫在同一年的收入(130万美元),而ETS的总收入要比GMAC多8倍。

    此外,至少还有15位官员获得了25万美元以上的年薪。GMAC提交给政府的文件显示,执行副总裁玛格丽特•约布斯特挣了539,058美元。负责全球市场开发的执行副总裁朱莉娅•泰勒拿到了562,378美元。首席信息官罗伯特•罗斯克兰斯赚了465,327美元。共有9位GMAC官员获得了6位数的奖金,其中包括获得44.8万美元奖金的威尔逊,因745,485美元延付薪酬的缘故,他的2012年度薪酬上涨得尤为厉害。

    GMAC辩称,这些高薪并没有脱离类似组织支付给最高领导者的薪资水平。“我们是一家怀抱非营利性使命、渴望创造收入的全球性企业,”达马托说。“如今的招聘市场竞争激烈,我们希望招募而来的高管‘构建’一家公司,而不仅仅是为一家现有的组织招募员工。”

    Sixty years ago on Feb. 6, 1954, slightly more than 1,000 people sat down in 100 different places around the world to take a test for the very first time. It was the precursor to the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the de facto entry exam to the best business schools in the world.

    Back then, the 1,291 prospective students paid just $10 each to take the paper-and-pencil exam. It was offered only three times a year in five countries, and candidates had to wait three to four weeks to get their results. Only 54 business schools accepted GMAT scores at the time.

    Today, the computer-adaptive GMAT costs $250 a pop and if a test taker wants the results sent to more than five schools, there's an additional $28 charge for each score report. The test is offered year round at more than 600 sites in 113 countries. Anxiety-ridden test takers receive their scores within five to seven days, and more than 2,100 schools all over the globe now require the GMAT for admission.

    The growth of the test itself mirrors the spectacular rise in popularity of the MBA degree, arguably the most successful educational product of the post-war period. The credential's prosperity has made the GMAT a hot "product."

    For the organization that oversees the test, the Graduate Management Admission Council, profit margins on the exam are even better than the margins Apple (AAPL) makes on the iPad and the iPhone. GMAC says it collected $87.7 million in fees in 2012, yet it cost the organization only $45.7 million to administer the test, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The effective gross profit on the actual exam is roughly 47.9%, nearly 11 points higher than Apple's current gross profit margins.

    All told, GMAC reported that its "program service revenue" came to $92.7 million in 2012, up from $88.5 million a year earlier. The organization's "investment income" alone amounted to another $30.7 million. When you kick in other revenue, GMAC recorded total revenue in 2012 of $125.1 million, up from $92.7 million a year earlier. Though it is a non-profit and does not have to pay taxes, the organization reported a tidy $22.4 million in cash after paying all its expenses for the year.

    GMAC says the expenses to administer its test do not include such things as test design, score reporting, test taker accommodations, and the cost of running its website, where test takers register for the exam. "These are all activities that are intrinsic to the delivery of the test and are not covered in those operating expenses," says Rich D'Amato, vice president of corporate communications at GMAC. "In addition, there's [a] smaller expense group around fulfilling our responsibility -- part of our being a nonprofit -- to invest in [the] promotion of graduate management education as a field of study."

    The reported expenses on the test do not include another very big line item in the organization's budget: its salaries and benefits to GMAC staffers. In 2012, GMAC's total compensation amounted to $25.9 million for a staff that numbered only 141 people.

    At the very top of the non-profit are some very generously paid people. David Wilson, who until Dec. 31 of last year was president of the GMAC, was paid $1,914,845 in salary, benefits, and deferred compensation in 2012, more than three times the $662,000 that Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria made in 2011. Indeed, Wilson made substantially more than Educational Testing Service President Kurt Landgraf, who was paid $1.3 million in the same year for leading an organization with total revenues that are eight times greater.

    What's more, at least 15 other officials at GMAC make at least a quarter of a million dollars a year in pay. Margaret Jobst, an executive vice president, made $539,058, according to GMAC's government filing. Julia Tyler, an executive vice president for global market development, pulled down $562,378. Robert Rosecrans, chief information officer, made $465,327. In all, six-figure bonuses were paid to nine GMAC officers, including a $448,000 bonus for Wilson, whose 2012 annual compensation was especially inflated due to $745,485 in deferred pay.

    GMAC defends those salaries, saying that they are not out of line with what peer organizations pay their top leaders. "We are a global revenue generating enterprise with a not-for-profit mission," says D'Amato. "We were recruiting to 'build' a company, not just staff an existing organization in a very competitive recruitment market."

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