Comparing College Costs the Easy Way

from NYTs

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?

More here.

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7 Responses to Comparing College Costs the Easy Way

  1. L.E. Baron KJP February 6, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    It is no surprise that the college costs is a major topic with today’s generations. The currently existing college bubble is one that continues to see prices rise at an inflammatory rate, while the economy does not fare better. To make matters worse, there is no guarantee that jobs will be available after students graduate. The situation worsens: it seems logical that all this debt is not necessary if one is not even guaranteed a job after college. However, following that path will drastically reduce one’s chances of getting a job of their liking. The emphasis put on a college diploma undermines the quality of the education actually received by the future employee. Furthermore, a significant portion of what they learn does not necessarily apply to the fields that college graduates will venture into. This is, in effect, an ultimatum: be stuck with half a lifetime’s worth of debts with some chance of getting employed in one’s field of study, or reject the debt but severely restricting the fields one can venture into.
    As a business major, I get to see this conundrum from both a student and a business perspective. Colleges at the moment are experiencing exceeding demand for their services, which allows them to inflate their prices for the sake of making profit. While this bubble seems to never end, there will come a time when it will pop, and come back to bite the colleges. In the broad economic scale, everything will balance out in the long run, and colleges will have to offer better services, and better prices. However, it does not change what current students are going through. Despite federal aid and loans, the situation does not improve by much. President Obama wants to propose a law that would allow the first two years of college education to be free of charge for everyone. This would be a hue breakthrough in the education industry, seeing ow the first two years are mostly composed of general “weed-out” classes, not pertaining to specific majors. It is natural for colleges to look in their best interests and increase their profits as much as they can, but it is also the government’s job to provide adequate alleviation to such predatory pricing. Colleges demonstrate a guilty conscience by blocking the program College Abacus from their websites, because the people who are making such a major decision in their lives have a right to know how much they are putting out, and whether it is a worthwhile investment or not. Freedom of information is something that has been long fought for in many industries, and it should be no different for this one.

  2. Hazelb February 12, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    Abigail Seldin and, her husband, Whitney Haring-Smith recognized that college-bound students are struggling to determine which school to attend. For many students, financial aid is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to attend. As a student in a private institution, I understand how stressful it is to think about tuition and student loans. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that the tuition of private institution more than doubled in the last thirty years. In 1981, the average annual tuition for a private institution in the United States was $14,909, after adjusting for inflation. In 2011, they report that the average annual tuition for a private college or university was $33,047.(http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76) In many cases, students are taking federally-backed loans in addition to accepting financial aid from individual schools. Bloomberg Business reports that students have over a billion dollars in federal student loans for last academic year. Also, about sixty-nine percent of 2013 graduates have some form of student debt.(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-13/college-tuition-in-the-u-s-again-rises-faster-than-inflation) Seldin and Haring-Smith created an easier way to compare schools and education costs. I believe that colleges who block their program from their sites are nervous that students would not want to attend their school if they knew its true cost. That mentality speaks volumes about the current status of higher education. The investment in one’s education may not have as high of a return as it used to because the job market is saturated with college graduates.

  3. Matthew Goldberg March 27, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    I have to say after reading this article, even though there were some issues with College Abacus, I would have loved to use this calculator when I was applying for colleges. I remember when I was applying, I had to basically figure out the details and how much everything would total out to be in the end for myself. Instead of me having to go through each website, searching for the information I needed, this calculator could have helped a lot. I could understand how some colleges and universities do not like this calculator because they help students understand how to spend their money in the most efficient way and making the right decision.

    I hope that students realize what College Abacus is and use it to their advantage when deciding on what college to choose. I don’t feel like it is very well known and families are not yet informed about this calculator. There are so many people in the world who have cost being one of the most important factors when choosing a college. This calculator provides people insight on the business that is colleges. I like how at the end of this article they concluded that not each tool produces an accurate estimate, but improving existing programs can only benefit the estimates. This will benefit families all over the nation.

  4. Ashley Scott April 24, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    After reading this article I realized that I haven’t researched how much college cost are at Seton Hall. Since the military pays for my education I haven’t had any concerns. This article has allowed me to understand how difficult it is to afford a college education. Students are going into debt just to add a degree to their name. I find the importance of using a college calculator to estimate the cost and help you budget for the long run. I decided to use the net price calculator after I realized how beneficial it is to families. The net price calculator is able to calculate a possible financial aid awards. In my opinion, these calculators help to provide families with predictions of the damage of a college education. I believe families should take advantage of college calculators and inform their children on how important college is by showing them their expenses.

  5. Mohammad Badwan April 24, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    This article reinforced the belief that I have on how much college costs. It made me question if $37,000 a year were really worth it. But in our day and age, every entry level job requires a bachelor;s degree for the most part. I realize how expensive it is to go to college and I am very grateful that it has been made affordable in my case. I do have to keep a certain GPA though, which is a challenge, but I give my full effort to do what’s expected of me. As a Yoda once said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

    I am amazed at how much debt a 4 year education could put a student in. The calculators do wonders for students and their families in determining what they can’t and can afford.

  6. Prince Sledge April 24, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    College is a huge financial investment and often times places a significant financial burden on individuals lives. This article proves that from the perspective of the college/university, education is more about business and the money than anything else. I found this surprising, especially when there are a number of countries out there that offer free tuition schooling .

    That being said, the article goes on to talk about College Abacus which is a web tool that allows people to easily calculate financial estimates. Although it was not perfect, I would’ve loved to have had this tool to use during my own personal application process. The calculator could potentially saved thousands of dollars in the long run.

  7. Nelson Valerio April 24, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

    How powerful colleges have become is almost hard to look at anymore. These big colleges have the pricing power to charge what they want and students will still in-debt themselves in order to pay to go there.

    Finally comes along a tool that can aid students through that process, and colleges are already disallowing this clever tool to be used with their school. Many of the colleges are complaining about the accuracy of the tool, but if it tells a student’s approximately what he is going to pay for college, then why not just let them use this tool. Even if it is a few hundreds of dollars off, it can relatively tell a student what they are looking at for the next four or so years of their life.

    Low income families many times are not aware of how much the price is going to be once a student begins college. This tool can avoid much of that confusion that some families face when they see prices way above their affordable rate. Not allowing this in certain colleges is absurd and should become a normal part of registration for college, so everyone is aware of how much that education is going to be.

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