There’s a lot of publications out there that rank colleges by various measures of quality, but the Department of Education’s new tool gets down to a more practical yardstick: What’s it gonna cost?
The website allows wide-eyed high school students - and their shell-shocked parents - to sort public and private colleges by tuition rates and net prices (tuition minus average aid received) for the 2009-2010 school year.
It’s an illuminating look at how wildly variable the cost of college can be. Bates, Middlebury and Connecticut College are the priciest not-for-profit four-year schools, with each charging $50,000 or above. Their fees are higher than most in part because they also include room and board charges, something not all private schools do.
A for-profit four-year institution, Sanford-Brown College, which provides healthcare training, isn’t far behind with tuition and fees listed at around $45,000. (See update below.)
By comparison, public universities seem like a bargain, which the highest tuition rates topping out at around $14,000.
Of course, there are plenty of less expensive options for getting a four-year degree. But many schools are struggling to keep those tuition costs down.
Another area of the tool tells you how fast tuition prices rose between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. Some state schools, particularly those in California, saw tuition prices jump by 40 percent or more during that time.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the tool is that it doesn’t just stop with those heading to a four-year college. Another section allows users to see the various costs of vocational programs. Here, too, the results are pretty stunning.
The tuition cost for becoming a cosmetologist could be anywhere from $2,000 to $24,000, according to the website. An electrician program could cost you around $3,000 or around $30,000, depending on the program.
Update: Sanford-Brown tells Life Inc. that it mistakenly provided the cost for the entire program, rather than one year. The school said the average tuition and fees for that academic year was $12,126.
The Department of Education says they’re aware of the error but did not receive notification until it was too late to correct data. A spokeswoman said the school will have the opportunity to submit correct data next year.