Office of Planning and Budgeting

US Department of Ed Publishes College Affordability Data

When Congress renewed the Higher Education Opportunity Act in 2008 it contained some significant revisions, including new mandates to increase transparency around the issue of college cost and affordability. As a result, all institutions were required to develop and publish some form of a ‘net cost calculator’ that could help a prospective student get a sense of what the student and their family might have to pay to attend the institution once their basic financial circumstances were taken into account. At the UW, we refer to this as our Financial Aid Estimator Service.

In addition, the US Department of Education was charged with collecting, analyzing and reporting specified information about sticker price, net cost, cost increases and more via an easily accessible public website. Just last week, the Department published that website. Most of this information was already publicly available via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), but the new site focuses on enhancing understanding and navigability for citizens.

The creation of this website is a step forward for citizens seeking more coherent information on college pricing, but the site and data have some already clear weaknesses that will hopefully be addressed.

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