College navigator allows comparison of different schools’ costs

Elizabeth Hinojos

The Department of Education‘s new college navigator website allows current and prospective college students to compare costs of different schools across the country.

A legislative mandate required the department to create a site where people can explore the affordability of attending postsecondary school and compare the advantages of schools at different ends of the cost spectrum. This also includes comparison of programs and majors, financial aid awards and different types of higher education programs.

“This allows students and families to see the highs and lows of the distributions and highlights those good-performing institutions,” department official David Bergeron said to The New York Times in a June 30 article.

Updates on the website are soon to come after many changes to financial aid, said Tom Melecki, financial services director at the University. Melecki said state and federal financial aid cuts are making it more challenging to fund grants and low-interest loans.

The University has suffered about a $20.5 million reduction in the amount of financial aid available this coming year. Of that $20.5 million, $17.8 million is reduction in grant and scholarship programs. This may leave the University lagging in affordability on the College Navigator website.

A contested statistic showed the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has the highest total cost for full-time students among public institutions at $24,192 per year after financial aid.

An article in the San Antonio Express-News addressed the discrepancy on July 1.

The Health Science Center is actually one of the most affordable medical colleges in the state with the Dental School ranking 54 out of 56 in tuition costs, according to the school’s website.

President of the Center, William L. Henrich, said the article compared total costs of tuition and living expenses at the nursing school for one year against the cost of only tuition at a four-year undergraduate school.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” Henrick said. “They stated in the article that Pennsylvania had the highest average tuition costs at $14,416 a year, [while] the tuition cost in the school of nursing is $4,500. In essence, they compared costs asymmetrically.”  

Printed on 07/07/2011 as: Website compares tuition rates, total affordability of US schools