Financial Information At The Forefront Of New College Comparison Tool

The cost of college is a central component of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s new comparative tool: College Reality Check.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) and the Department's National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), and PayScale, the new interactive website attempts to guide prospective college students, parents, and counselors with comparisons of key statistics. Users can select up to five colleges to compare the average net price, graduation rates, amount of debt at graduation, and monthly loan repayments.

The tool also ties average student loan debt to average earnings of an institution’s recent graduates, using data from PayScale.  “[T]he question now for prospective students and their parents is whether taking on increasing amounts of debt to finance an education at a specific college is worth it,” according to College Reality Check. “Until recently, it was very difficult for families to answer that question. But increasingly families have access to data that allow them to see the payoff of a degree in a particular academic discipline from a specific college by looking at earnings after graduation.”

Unlike the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Financial Aid Comparison Shopper, the information presented on College Reality Check isn’t customizable. However, each college has its own directory page on which users can access an institution’s net price calculator for a more tailored estimate of college costs. 

College Reality Check, which The Chronicle produced with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the latest addition to a growing virtual college toolbox, joining other sites such as the College Board’s Big Future and the CFPB’s College Comparison Shopper. But College Reality Check likely won’t be the last release. 

“As tuition prices and student debt continue to climb and data aggregation and visualization improve, the number and quality of those consumer tools will only increase,” Jeff Selingo, editor for The Chronicle, wrote in a recent blog post.


Publication Date: 4/30/2013

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