If you’re a shoestring start-up trying to get noticed in an enormous industry, there’s nothing that helps more than having big players try to ban you. But from financial services to airlines, the pattern repeats itself again and again, as the lumbering giants seek to destroy rather than cooperate.
And so it goes with higher education, its trillion-dollar student debt tally and a tiny little outfit called College Abacus. It has a web tool that allows people applying for college to enter financial and other personal data. Then it spits out three estimates of the price they might actually pay once colleges offer them scholarships. It does so by harnessing calculators on individual colleges’ websites. And it turns out that many of those colleges don’t like the idea very much.
Just over a year ago, schools from Spelman to Wesleyan to the University of Oregon to Texas Christian University blocked College Abacus from pinging their websites. So now that some time has passed, I wondered: How could institutions in the business of information dissemination justify blocking families who are trying to make one of the biggest financial decisions there is? And might they be willing to reconsider?