Several years ago, the federal government began to mandate that colleges that accept financial aid were required to put net price calculators on their websites for students. It made sense that a college should do its best to estimate the costs of being there, given the size of the investment. Now a company has come along and upset the college establishment by allowing students to compare school costs side by side. Collegeabacus.com has ticked off a lot of colleges. So much so they want to block them from accessing their data on pricing. But the question then becomes, what are they trying to hide? Lynn O’Shaughnessy (twitter @CollegeBlogs ) wrote a great article on how schools are trying to comply while still cleverly hiding their net price calculators.
Academia by its very nature does not like to be quantified except by its own rubric. They don’t want people to keep an eye on metrics such as cost, 6-year graduation rates, job placement post graduation, or factors by which they do not measure themselves. They often focus on items such as rising SAT/ACT/GPA averages of incoming freshmen. They compete on prestige, but not on price. The issues that most parents and students face is can they actually pay for a college education. Moreover, they want to know, “is this education going to get me a job”? In a time where the price of a college education at a public institution is rising faster than the rate of private colleges, cost must be a factor considered when choosing a college.
Years ago, when insurance went online, prices for policies began to drop, simply due to price competition. Colleges don’t like to compete on price, as they consider themselves to be above such things. However, given the limited resources available to help with paying for a college education, the only way to keep rising costs in check is for the raw cost of attendance to be laid out in straight forward terms.
While I appreciate the college education I experienced, I look back on it an ask myself did I get everything I paid for, and did I pay too much? My advice for anyone thinking about college; let price be one of the main factors in choosing a school. It could mean the difference between decades of debt, and freedom of choice after college. My only regret is I didn’t think of building the site myself! 🙂