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College-Comparison Tool Introduced

Coming on the heels of the federal government's new College Scorecard, The Chronicle of Higher Education has just introduced its own tool for students to compare college costs and performance.

College Reality Check is a free website developed by The Chronicle with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Students can enter the names of various colleges and get comparisons of net price, graduation rates, average college debt, loan-default rates, and graduate earnings. Or users can find colleges to consider by entering their own criteria, such as location or majors offered. Schools can also be sorted the various categories, such as size, total cost, default rates, graduation rates, and average debt.

The format provides simple bar graphs to line up the statistics from one college alongside another to help in the selection process. Developers of the website designed it to be used by students at various points in the college-search process to help narrow down the options.

The College Affordability and Transparency Center in the U.S. Department of Education rolled out the College Scorecard in February. Some higher education leaders have complained that the new federal scorecard is too simplistic and focused on finance. Others say, while it needs work, the College Scorecard is a good first step in helping make wise college choices and prompt families to ask questions.

This new approach by The Chronicle is being applauded by some in the education community for its inviting graphics and an easy-to-use format. Unlike the College Scorecard, it allows users to compare statistics of different schools simultaneously and sort schools within a particular state by various categories.

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