How to Find the Best (or Worst) Deals for College

Forget the venerated U.S. News & World Report college rankings. The list that cash-strapped prospective students and their parents will really be paying attention to this fall comes from the government. On Thursday the U.S. Department of Education unveiled the College Affordability and Transparency Center, a new website designed to provide clear data about the true cost of college.

The site allows users to generate static lists of which schools have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices. You simply choose what kind of school you want to attend—public, private, four-year, or two-year. Then you decide if you want to sort by highest or lowest price, click “generate report,” and the tool makes a nice, easy-to-understand list of around 50 schools.

The site has a second useful tool that can come in handy – a link to another database, the College Navigator, that allows users to search for specific colleges and get even more detailed information—enrollment, available majors and student loan default rates—about a school. College Navigator also allows users to do side-by-side comparisons of up to four schools they’re interested in. When you once thought a specific school to be more expensive than another, you can now accurately evaluate the information because you can see what financial aid options are available at each school. Thus, the original school you thought to be too expensive might actually be cheaper than others you are comparing based off of other pertinent information. This new resource is arguably clearer, more comprehensive, and more accessible than any other.



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