Whether you’re the parent of a high schooler that’s quickly approaching graduation, a current college student working their way through school, or just an “average Joe” who occasionally watches the news or reads the paper, you probably already know that the price of college has increased rapidly over the past decade.
Thanks to the College Affordability and Transparency Center, a just-launched website from the U.S. Department of Education, the general public can now easily find out which schools are the most expensive colleges in the country. Likewise, the cheapest colleges in the U.S. are also pointed out.
The College Affordability and Transparency Center contains helpful lists of colleges and universities with both the highest and lowest tuitions; the highest and lowest percentage of tuition increases over the past two years; and the highest and lowest net price. Net price is the actual out-of-pocket cost that students pay once financial aid has been deducted. The site explains that these lists were generated using data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
“These lists are a helpful tool for students and families as they determine what college or university is the best fit for them,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press release issued by the Department on June 30, 2011. “We hope this information will encourage schools to continue their efforts to make the costs of college more transparent so students make informed decisions and aren’t saddled with unmanageable debt.”
The website also includes a variety of other data about individual colleges and universities, such as information on admissions, retention rates, graduation rates, and financial aid. The site was developed due to The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The HEOA called for the College Affordability and Transparency Lists to be created by July 1 of this year.
College administrators might beg to differ, but most college students and their parents would agree that schools should be held accountable for their tuition rate increases, especially considering the number of college graduates that are currently unemployed or taking jobs for which they’re overqualified out of desperation.
According to CNN Money, the colleges and universities with the highest tuition hikes will now have to submit reports to the U.S. government that explain why their tuition and fees have increased so significantly. Neither Congress nor the Department of Education have yet announced what the repercussions will be for the most expensive colleges with huge rate increases, but the media is speculating that regulations regarding tuition increase may be imposed in the near future.
Inside Higher Ed reports that Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, says “Every institution that shows a large percentage increase will have explanations for why it happened.”
Even so, Inside Higher Ed also pondered whether or not the lists would be more harmful than helpful. They simply might be too much information for the average person to easily comprehend. “At the end of the day I think it’s good for consumers to have this sort of information,” Hartle explained. “I just hope it’s not too complicated to wade through.”
The Department of Education points out that the new College Affordability and Transparency Center reflects President Barack Obama’s “commitment to delivering a government that is more open, transparent and accountable to the American people.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education pointed out a few strange trends that the lists show. Religious-centered and Bible colleges have had some of the biggest increases in net price, even though many of the country’s religious schools landed on the list of colleges with lowest net prices. Also, although art colleges are currently some of the most expensive colleges in America, those schools haven’t shown very big rate increases.
You can view all of the lists and other information here.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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