Birdseye College Price Comparison is the site that I have spent the past few months creating. The purpose of the site is to provide students first looking at prospective colleges an estimate of what a four-year education at each college they are interested in will cost them personally. The site provides an estimate of the full cost for four years of tuition, fees, supplies, room, and board. After just one visit to this site, with as little typing as possible, a student will have a list of the colleges they are interested in ranked by how much a four-year education will cost at each one. Odds of being accepted to each college are provided as well.
Estimating what a student will ultimately be charged by a specific college is challenging. In the United States, public and private colleges practice widespread price manipulation. Colleges have a sticker price, the posted tuition amount, but they offer discounts to most students they accept. The discount offered is often called a scholarship or a grant in the student's acceptance letter, and the discount amount differs from student to student. For example, students from poor families often get significantly larger discounts than students from rich families. The discounts can be huge--some students may pay just 10% of the sticker price. The discounted price, including room, board, fees, and supplies, is often referred to as the "net price."
Over the years colleges have become very good at offering students a net price in their admissions letter that is just under what the student (or their parents) are willing to pay. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to figure out what a college will charge a particular student without applying to that college, which involves filling out forms, writing essays, and paying application fees. Birdseye College Price Comparison helps by creating an estimate for each individual student based on what students like them have been charged in the past.
Since the 1992/93 school year, the net price charged to a new student to attend one year at a public four-year college rose an average of 5.9% per year. Over the same time period, the net price charged to a new student to attend one year at a private non-profit four-year college rose an average of 3.6% per year. (Source: College Board's Trends in College Pricing 2012 report). And these are increases just for the cost of the first year of schooling.
After their first year, students currently attending a college end up paying more because colleges raise tuition and fees from year-to-year. The discount that the college gives a student in their first year does not increase to cover the extra amount being charged, so the amount that tuition and fees are increased must be paid by the student. Tuition and fee increases are a way for a college to extract more revenue out of its existing student body. At private non-profit four-year colleges, the sticker price rose an average of 6.1% per year since 1992/93. And those increases are passed directly to students who are currently attending college.
To create a complete price estimate for a four-year education, initial net price offers as well as tuition increases must be factored in. Birdseye College Price Comparison takes care of all of that for students, first by estimating net price based on what similar students have been charged in the past, and then extrapolating out expected tuition increases for the years necessary to get a degree. It does all the arithmetic for students, giving them a list of each college they are interested in with an expected price for a complete degree. That way, a student can decide if a degree from one college is really worth an extra $100,000 over a degree from another.
Don't waste your time applying to colleges that cost too much. Give Birdseye College Price Comparison a try, and start narrowing your college search today!