CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR HISTORY AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE HELPING STUDENTS PLAN THEIR FINANCIAL PATH TOWARDS COLLEGE?
My co-founder and I both left our jobs at universities to launch Edmit because we saw a real need for better information in the college decision-making process. Today consumers are forced to make one of the most important decisions of their lives with incomplete data, and we saw a way to change that. We realized that more accurate and personalized pricing information was possible, but that it wasn't being served up to students and families. In the same way that Truecar or Zillow analyze market data to inform buyers on fair pricing and the true value of those investments, Edmit creates price and value transparency around higher education.
In my time as V.P. at Northeastern University and my co-founder Sabrina Manville's time as A.V.P. at Southern New Hampshire University, we saw over and over how much unnecessary duress families went through trying to understand what they would need to pay, and whether or not they could afford their child's dream school. We are providing a way for families to see what a college's true cost would look like for them.
WHY DOES THE COST OF ATTENDING COLLEGE FUNCTION AS SUCH A DETERRENT FOR STUDENTS?
If you browse any news website today, you're likely to find stories of sky-high tuition prices. Right below that you'll see headlines about Millennials saddled with six-figure debt, working as baristas and living at home with their parents. That narrative is playing out in students' decision-making; a recent poll found that 40% of students who declined their “dream school” did so because of price-related concerns.
But the real issue is the lack of transparency around what college actually costs. Without real transparency around price and value we'll unfortunately continue to see students miss out on college opportunities -- arguably the best investment one can make in their future.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PAYING FOR COLLEGE?
The biggest misconception about paying for college is that you will pay the sticker price. Hardly anyone pays the sticker price -- in fact, just between 1% and 12% of first-time freshman pay full tuition. Almost everyone receives some form of financial assistance and/or merit aid. Edmit helps students more accurately estimate what they are likely to pay based on what others like them have received in aid from that college and similar colleges in recent years.
WHAT CHOICES ARE YOU SEEING STUDENTS AND FAMILIES HAVE TO MAKE BASED ON THE COSTS OF HIGHER EDUCATION?
The unfortunate reality is that there aren't many choices. If a student has an expected family contribution greater than zero and they don't receive scholarships, then they will have to come up with the cash or take out loans. This affects everyone at all income levels.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH ALL STUDENTS AND PARENTS/ GUARDIANS KNEW ABOUT FINANCING AN EDUCATION?
I wish everyone thought about college as an investment and evaluated it like you would any other investment. What is this going to cost? Am I paying a fair price? What can I expect the return to be? Is this a good value? I wish students and parents/guardians knew to ask these questions, sought answers to them before making their decision, and weighed the answers appropriately in making their decision.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO STUDENTS THINKING ABOUT APPLYING TO COLLEGE, BUT AREN'T SURE THEY CAN AFFORD TO ATTEND?
My advice would be to make sure you know which colleges will provide a good value and apply to those. You might be surprised what financial and merit aid you will receive, so use multiple resources, such as the College Scorecard and Edmit, to research costs. Always fill out the FAFSA, even if you don't think they will qualify for financial aid.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ROLE OF A UNIVERSITY IS IN SUPPORTING STUDENTS STRUGGLING TO PAY FOR COLLEGE?
Universities should be more transparent, helping students clearly understand the actual total costs of attending. Many colleges overcomplicate decision-making by including federal loans in their financial aid awards. That doesn't help anyone.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR ORGANIZATIONS LIKE EDMIT TO PROVIDE RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS TO HELP THEM NAVIGATE THE COST OF COLLEGE?
College pricing is confusing and abstract, making it extremely difficult for students to understand how much they are paying. With a more concrete sense of the cost, students and their families can better budget for their education. Rooting the costs in reality can help make the experience and degree feel more attainable.
WHERE DO YOU RECOMMEND STUDENTS, AND THEIR SUPPORT SYSTEMS, TURN FOR RESOURCES AND GUIDANCE AS THEY BEGIN TO PLAN HOW TO FUND THEIR EDUCATION?
There are a lot of great forums online for students and their support systems to do their homework. For example, there's College Confidential, Reddit, and Facebook groups such as Paying for College 101, which has over 20,000 members and an active community.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS FOR US?
I wish as much time and consideration was spent on evaluating college choice as an investment, as is spent on saving and paying for college.
Nick DucoffCEO of Edmit
Nick Ducoff is the co-founder and CEO of Edmit, a platform that compares the cost and value of college and helps negotiate college tuition among your top college choices. He was previously Northeastern University's vice president for new ventures. At Northeastern, Nick founded the Experiential Network, which has served over two thousand students with real-world projects from 800 employers. He also launched the first university bootcamp, Level, which was recognized as an exemplar innovation by the U.S. Department of Education. Nick previously co-founded Infochimps, which was acquired by CSC (NYSE: DXC), and was a Vice President at Boundless, which was acquired by Follett. He earned his J.D., with Honors, at the University of Texas at Austin, and his BBA at Emory University's Goizueta Business School.