Finding the Real Price of College

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Between the standardized tests, application requirements and calculating the cost of tuition, navigating the college admissions process can be tricky for students and families.

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Realizing the rough waters, Scott Anderson launched in November 2010 that promises to guide you through the college search process, help you find affordable higher education options and get you into college - regardless of your financial situation.

Anderson, an expert on college financial planning, has been working with families and college bound students since 1999. After founding the financial counseling Web site College Financial Strategies (CFS) in 2001, writing two books about how to pay less for college and starting, Anderson still wasnt satisfied with his efforts.

I quickly looked around to find out what would be the pinnacle, the most influence that I could produce out of the work that I was doing, says Anderson. It took me six years practically to figure out how is this going to happen? The whole idea behind it is how can we get this information out into the most peoples hands as quickly as possible?

In 2009, Anderson approached his high school best friend and marketing expert Brad Woodard to help him build a new Web site.

We decided that what we would do is we would parse all of this plethora of information thats available out there and segment it into digestible chunks [for people] to easily interpret and understand what their next steps are and to then sort of lead them through the process, says Woodard.

One of the main attractions of the site is the option for users to search and compare schools based on a variety of factors including: location, size, majors offered, and eduLauchpads net price search option, which includes how generous a school is in giving aid.

According to Woodard, who serves as chief marketing officer in addition to co-founder, very few people actually pay the full price of tuition; with 90% of families paying too much.

We dont want people to decide, I cant go there because it costs too much money--what we want to be able to do is show them all of the options that are out there, says Woodard. Based on their personal performance factors, whether its their class rank or their standardized test scores, theyre going to have a better picture of what school is going to cost.

Woodard touts his Web sites easy-to-navigate layout helps users find exactly what they are looking for.

Anderson says it is especially important to provide well-researched information in a clean format in todays technology-ridden world where anyone can start a Web site without fact-checking.

I want to make certain that families up front know there is bad information out here that you are likely making decisions on and you need to cut that off right now, says Anderson. If you continue operating under these false pretenses, youre going to waste an awful lot of money.

Whats Next 

Were always looking for the constructive criticism from families and were trying to build in their suggestions because theyre really the ones that were trying to design it for and get their feedback, says Anderson. But the feedback weve gotten so far, I really think weve hit the sweet spot.

To make more beneficial for students in the future, the company plans to provide users with access to college financial advisors and admissions counselors through live forums and Webinars.

Were trying to leverage our network and the people that were meeting through going to conferences and seeing whats on the cutting edge of college admissions out there and bringing that information to the site as well, says Woodard. Its also going to be a place where people can go to get the latest, up to date information about college searches and admissions.

Anderson says its important for students and families who access to know how to choose the schools that will give them the best financial options, how to take full advantage of the options available to them, and to assure students that theyve gone through the right process when it comes down to making a decision of which school to attend.

It is so serious to make certain people understand you just cant go out there and make decisions blindly about the most expensive investment you are ever going to make, says Anderson. Were talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in many cases that people invest in just one students education. To do this without the right information is financial suicide.