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US Department of Education Lists College Tuitions on New Website

In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a new website designed to show students and, probably more importantly, parents a list of college tuitions. Among other things, it allows users to compare tuition costs between colleges to help them determine which schools best fit their budgets. The Education Insider explores the usefulness and limits of the information this new website offers.

By Harrison Howe

A Closer Look at College Costs and Expenses

Satisfying a mandate set forth in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Department of Education now provides its College Affordability and Transparency lists on a new website, www.collegecost.ed.gov. The information found on the site is more comprehensive than previously offered by the department and requires the most and least-expensive institutions to provide a fairly extensive breakdown of all costs associated with attending each school.

What's more, and most appealing, is that it's user-friendly.

The schools are broken down by category (public, private, for-profit, not-for-profit, 2-year and 4-year). Within each category, the site shows which schools have rising tuitions, and how fast those costs are ascending. Most helpful to first-time students, it shows the net cost of attending each school. The net cost reflects what the students pay for tuition, fees and room and board and takes into account any grants and scholarships the student might be receiving.

The site will also be used by the Department of Education to monitor which colleges are most expensive, and which ones have the fastest-rising tuitions. Another list will show increases in net costs. With a recent report showing college costs rising by about five percent per year, the Department of Education hopes to make schools answer for these increases. Colleges in question will have to report to the Department the reasons for high tuitions and escalating costs and present plans to address these issues.

Website Offers No Middle Ground

If you're looking for the top five percent of the most expensive colleges, you're in luck. The cheapest ten percent? The new website will give you information for those, too. But what about all of the institutions in between?

Well, there's where the website won't serve you well. . .or at all, for that matter. Colleges that fall into that middle 85% are not represented on the new website. For those schools you'll need to access the College Navigator, found on the National Center for Education Statistics website offered by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. There, you can search tuition and fees, enrollment figures and programs offered by school name or state.

Still, the new site is very useful for those who wish to see how much the costs might have risen at a specific school in the past year or two, how much prices are expected to rise at any given school or how much the net costs will be to attend one school as compared to another. Those seeking to enter a career college can even track costs associated with a specified area of study!

Ultimately, the new website will surely prove to be a useful tool as hard times have forced families to become much more cost-conscious when it comes to sending their kids off to college. By allowing consumers to see the highs and lows associated with certain colleges and universities, hopefully the site will help them make the smartest, and most affordable, choices when it comes to higher education.

Take a closer look at the most expensive colleges and universities in the U.S., and whether they are worth the price of admission.

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