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Six Tools to Help You Pick and Pay For a College Education

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Scott Beale / Laughing Squid / Flickr

Picking a college, and figuring out how to pay for it, is often confusing for students and their families, federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray told our colleagues at WKSU.

Cordray said college-bound students crave "real numbers in a format that makes sense of a huge financial undertaking that too often is confusing and daunting to borrowers.”

Here are six online tools to help you navigate that process:

    • What it is: Basic, comparable information about the main campuses of 13 Ohio four-year public colleges. Includes statistics on current enrollment, admissions, college costs, available majors, student success/graduation rates, and student performance. Produced by associations of state colleges.
    • Bonus features: See data on student experiences on campus (like what students think of faculty and advising staff) and data on how much students actually learn at the school.
  2. University System of Ohio Map
    • What it is: Map of every public college and university and community college in the state color-coded by type of institution. Links to school webpages and admissions, financial aid and academic catalog information. Produced by the University System of Ohio.
  3. University System of Ohio Academic Program Guide
    • What it is: Academic program offerings from every Ohio public college and university, including community colleges. Lets you identify, say, every athletic training degree program in the state broken out by level of degree offered. Produced by the University System of Ohio.
  4. FAFSA4caster
    • What it is: Free financial aid calculator that gives you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid. Anyone can use it--students at any grade level, adult earners, parents, etc. (The FAFSA Forecaster is a planning tool. When you're ready to actually apply you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Produced by the U.S. Department of Education
  5. College Navigator
    • What is is: Basic, comparable information for just about every college and university in the U.S. Search by all kinds of criteria: location, programs offered, maximum tuition and fees, student enrollment, campus setting, test scores of admitted students, etc. Produced by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency.
    • Bonus features: See average net price (Just like buying a car, no one pays the sticker price for college) and student loan default rates for each school. Use "guide me" feature for help navigating the site.
  6. College Affordabilty and Transparency List
    • What it is: Find information about the sticker price and actual cost of attending colleges and universities (two and four-year, public and private) nationwide. Find specific programs (culinary arts, anyone?) by state and nationwide and information about how long they take to complete and how much they cost. Part of the U.S. Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency Center.
    • Bonus features: See the institutions in Ohio and nationally with highest and lowest actual costs of attendance. Identify the schools where costs are increasing at the highest rates.

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