Fixing Our Backwards College-Application System

If you want to buy just about anything — a house, a car, a phone, an air fare — you find out how much it will cost from different suppliers first, then you compare features and decide which suits you best. There’s one huge exception, however: college education. You do all your shopping on features first and only after making your applications will you find out how much it will actually cost. This nutty system leads to considerable mismatching of students and schools.

Businessman Lyle Albaugh has devised a much better system and explains how it works in his Martin Center article “Bidding for Brains.”

After going through a frustrating college search with his daughter, Albaugh offers his thoughts:

As an entrepreneur, this disappointing view from the backseat of the admissions car suggested that prospects would be better if the college education consumer were in the driver’s seat. If college admissions were like other major purchases, students would know up front how much schools would actually cost.

So he has devised a platform that allows students to find out what their net price at schools would be, while at the same time allowing colleges to better promote themselves to prospective students.

Albaugh’s “Higher Admission” platform is still a work in progress, but he writes confidently,”Ultimately, Higher Admission could reverse the admission process. It’s an inexpensive, easy-to-use tool that allows students to find and buy postsecondary education the same way they find any other product — shopping by price and quality from their phones and laptops. The application, rather than being the start of the admissions maze, becomes the end point, a final click by the student that sends official transcripts and scores.”

I think he has hit upon a very good concept — one that would save students and families a great deal of time and money in their college searches.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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