Earlier this year, I wrote a college blog post after hearing from an affluent mom in Washington state named Lynne, who used 66 net price calculators (!!) to determine which schools would offer the best awards to her bright daughter.
Making Cost Comparisons a Snap
It can take a long time to using these invaluable net price calculators and clearly most families (even those who are convinced of their value) aren’t going to devote hours to these tools.
That’s why I am excited to share with you news of a new website – College Abacus – that will make the task of comparing net prices of various colleges and universities a snap. (If you don’t know what net price calculators are, scroll to the bottom of this post to find some of my past articles.) College Abacus will allow you to compare your projected financial aid packages at countless schools effortlessly.
If you’ve ever used Expedia, Orbitz or Kayak to search for airline tickets or Zillow to look at house prices then you’ll appreciate what is special about College Abacus. College Abacus, which was launched earlier this month, allows parents to provide information about their finances and their teenager’s academic profile just one time. Once the information is inputted, the family can obtain the estimated net price of dozens of schools (or more) without any extra work. Talk about a time saver!
Two young Rhode Scholars – Abigail Seldin and Whitney Haring-Smith – created College Abacus as a way to increase college price transparency for cost-conscious families in the hope that the tool will increase access to higher education.
Schools at College Abacus
If you use the free tool you can tie into an aggregated net price data base for roughly 2,500 colleges and universities and hundreds of more institutions will be added soon. The schools that are currently available at College Abacus use the federal template for their net price calculator, which has been criticized as being inadequate. The federal template asks few questions which can lead to inaccurate answers.
Many state universities use the federal template because their financial aid systems are fairly simply. I suspect, however, that many of the expensive private institutions that selected the federal template did so because they can use their calculators to mask stingy financial aid practices.
In November, hundreds of private schools that have developed sophisticated calculators will be added to College Abacus. Cost data for schools using net price calculators that were designed by Student Aid Services should be up my mid November, as well as for the University of California system and the SUNY and CUNY schools in New York. Cost figures from schools using net price calculators designed by the College Board will follow.
To make this work, College Abacus is essentially having to crack the code of the net price calculators of all schools. Once it figures out how a school makes its financial aid awards, it can add the schools into its lineup.
If a school is not in the system yet, College Abacus will direct a user to the institution’s net price calculator on the school’s website.
If college costs are an issue, parents should be using net price calculators before they allow their children to apply to any college. Fortunately, College Abacus is going to make this exercise much, much easier to do.
Learn more about net price calculators:
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.