Colleges Say Federal Database Listing Prices Doesn’t Provide Full Picture of Institutions

The site is easy enough to use. Pick a school type, pick a cost category, and, voila: a list of the most or least expensive schools in the country.

The U.S. Education Department database released late last month, a piece federal lawmakers ordered up, is intended to give families a more transparent look at rising college costs. But a few schools, notably Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and Florida State University in Tallahassee, balked at their inclusion.

With a menagerie of so many different kinds of schools, is it fair to compare them solely by price?

Education Department spokeswoman Sara Gast said that was never the intention. Rather, "it’s one of many tools," students can use as they consider college costs, part of an effort to quell excessive student loans.

"On the front end, we want students to have an idea of what they’re getting into," Gast said. "As far as a sort of direct influence on college decisions, we want this to be one of many things considered."

When students go to the site, they can choose a school category based on whether it’s four years, two years, or less, whether it’s for-profit or not-for-profit, and whether it’s public or private. They then must narrow down the search with options for highest or lowest tuition and highest or lowest net prices. Net prices are calculated by adding up tuition and fees and subtracting the average grant and scholarship aid.


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