Another round of layoffs at the Educational Testing Service

For the fourth time since the pandemic began, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has laid off employees.

Last week, more than 40 employees were laid off at ETS, according to employees and former employees at the world’s largest non-profit educational testing and assessment company, which is headquartered in Lawrence on Rosedale Road. One employee who was laid off after 30 years of service said the pandemic was cited as the reason for the layoffs.

Media relations representatives for ETS did not respond to inquiries from Planet Princeton about the layoffs or the reasons for cuts. We also asked how many full-time employees the organization has now after the latest round of layoffs. As of April of 2020, ETS employed more than 2,500 people.

The first round of layoffs after the pandemic began took place in April of 2020 and included many voluntary separations. At the time, the company cut the salaries of employees, offered voluntary buyouts to some workers, and laid off or furloughed some employees in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pay was cut by 10 percent for some employees. The cuts appeared to be scaled. Some employees reported that their pay cut was less than 10 percent. Employees with 15 years of service or more were offered a voluntary separation agreement.

A second round of involuntary layoffs took place in September of 2020. A third round of layoffs in March of 2021 included some higher-level employees.

In an April 2020 statement about the first round of layoffs, a representative stressed the impact the pandemic has had on testing. “While our top priority remains the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our ability to deliver assessments and conduct business,” read a statement provided to Planet Princeton at the time. “ETS has responded with innovative solutions to continue to serve test takers around the world, but these extraordinary and ongoing challenges have required us to make difficult decisions to ensure our sustainability so that we can continue to serve our mission and the local community that we are proud to call home.”

The pandemic led to a steep decline in K-12 student testing. The pandemic, plus a flurry of immigration-related directives from the Trump Administration, also led to a large drop in the enrolment of international students at U.S. educational institutions in 2020, meaning fewer students took the TOEFL test. Foreign student enrollment tumbled 18 percent in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. Visa records for newly enrolled students dropped 72 percent, and F-1 student visas plumetted by more than 90 percent in August of 2020.

About 1.5 million students in the high school Class of 2021 took the SAT at least once, down 700,000 from the Class of 2020. The College Board paused testing in March, May and June of 2020, affecting the ability of members of the Class of 2021 to take the SAT test. More than 1 million test registrations were cancelled as schools and test centers had to close or reduce capacity because of the pandemic, according to a new report from the College Board that was issued Sept. 15.


  1. Layoffs are very hard to manage and terrible for everyone involved including those laid off and the organization. I am glad this article talks about the loss of testing volume as the cause for the layoffs. The pandemic has affected us all. The company must be managed well to make sure it stays afloat and keeps the other 2,500 employees.

  2. Many, colleges are “test-optional” wrt admissions. This, they purport, removes an area of (supposed) bias in their selection of admits. But it also makes it easier for an increasing volume of applications (and application fees) from those who might have otherwise not have applied due to their below-target scores.

    Ohh, and the economics of college and the loans used to pay for college, are showing up as well. 5 million fewer men go to college now vs 20 years ago.

  3. The pandemic was not the reason for this latest round of cuts. The reason given, was that ETS is in the process of transforming their operating model and these jobs were deemed no longer necessary. The goal of upper management at this point is to downsize the U.S. workforce, and move roles to cheaper international locations.

  4. That is, I’m afraid, all too plausible, but I would appreciate a citation and a quotation of the actual wording.

  5. With the SAT becoming optional, ETS’s revenue is shrinking by alot In a few years, parents will decide they want to send their children to schools where you know the level of the students at the college. Then the SAT (by another name perhaps) will come back. Until then, ETS has a tough future. More layoffs may be coming.

  6. Apparently the word hasn’t spread very far that ETS has lost the SAT test– it’s now all done at College Board.

  7. ETS treated a close friend of mine very unfairly and shabbily keeping him on “temp” status working full time for a decade. He had no paid vacation or sick days, yet they consistently renewed his contract. No access to healthcare either. He ended up getting leukemia with no health insurance despite having worked consistently for ten years. I hope they go out of business, no sympathy for these big businesses who don’t give a damn about their workers. Of course they will farm out more jobs overseas if possible.

  8. This is not true. ETS is still a subcontractor to the College Board and working on the SAT. However, it is important to note that the SAT is no longer as large a percentage of ETS revenue as it was 20 years ago.

  9. One of the employees who was laid off after 26 years had won multiple awards for her work, including one that was in process at the very same time the layoff occurred. ETS won’t survive if they care so little about retaining talent.

  10. @Anon This is from ETS’s current website:

    What is ETS’s relationship to the College Board®?
    The College Board sponsors the SAT®, the Advanced Placement Program® Exams and other testing programs and decides how they will be constructed, administered and used. ETS develops and administers these tests on behalf of the College Board.

    It does appear that ETS is involved with the SAT. Is this info out of date?

  11. ETS no longer develops the SAT for the College Board–they do that work themselves. They still administer certain aspects of the test, but that will probably change in the future. College Board’s longterm goal is to take all business away from ETS and do it in house.

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