We are frequent advocates of better consumer information for students and their families. As a result we were pleased to read today’s article by fellow parent and New York Times columnist Ron Lieber. His article Concealing the Calculus of Higher Education is a powerful reminder of the difficulty families have in understanding the actual cost of college.
Since 2011, schools have been required by the Department of Education to provide net cost calculators. Some schools were reluctant to be compared on price alone, but the net cost of college is something that is in the public interest, particularly given the $180 billion in annual funding (Pell Grants & Federal Student Loans) that is provided to colleges and universities by the U.S. government.
Ron Lieber’s article highlights the unattractive behavior of schools who were reluctant to make their data available for comparison by third-parties such as College Abacus. College Abacus operated much like Expedia or Kayak but some schools prohibited them from accessing their data. As a result families could not get accurate data to easily compare multiple schools at once.
We understand the concern schools may have about being compared by net price only, but it is necessary for schools who receive federal funding to commit to becoming fully transparent. Cooperating with College Abacus and other third-parties is just a start. Sharing timely and accurate information regarding costs, refund policies campus safety and outcomes are all essential information for college students and their families.