Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NBC's Community goes to college: A guest post by Karisa Chappell

This is seventh post in the College Abacus “Financial Aid & Fiction” series. Previous posts have featured characters from Glee, Modern Family, Akeelah and the Bee, Spanglish, The Namesake and Twilight.
NBC’s Community features a group of students that head off to community college for a variety of reasons. Season 4’s new couple Britta and Troy are just beginning their college education. Britta enrolled after a globe-trotting life that left her, as describes it “almost 30 and broke” while Troy chose to forgo a scholarship to play football because he couldn’t handle the idea of continuing his football career, leading us to believe both characters were looking for an affordable college choice. Here at College Abacus, we couldn’t help but wonder, would community college really be the most cost-effective option for Britta and Troy?
Community is set at the fictional Greendale Community College in Colorado. Many of the characters are described as being from Denver and living close to Greendale, so we decided to compare two community colleges in the wider Denver area with the University of Colorado-Denver. (Scroll down to see the numbers we used for Britta and Troy’s financial situations).
College Abacus proves that Britta and Troy would be charged different prices to attend the same community colleges. 

Britta's Results
Troy's Results

Perhaps more importantly, this comparison demonstrates that each student would pay only a bit more tuition to attend the University of Colorado-Denver - a nearby four-year school.
The Community College of Denver would offer both characters the least expensive option, but Troy would pay $14,654 to attend while Britta would pay $11,932 – a difference of $2,722. If they decided to attend the community college in nearby Aurora instead, Troy would be paying at least $3,000 more in annual tuition than Britta! The University of Colorado-Denver, meanwhile, would be close in price to the community colleges, while also offering Troy and Britta the opportunity to attend a four-year institution. 
We know that Britta ran away from home and high school to join the Peace Corps and eventually become an activist, so we assumed she was living on her own when she applied to Greendale and had a household income of less than $30,000. We know Troy is an only child who was living with his father when he applied to college as it’s revealed at the end of Season One that Troy’s father kicked Troy out of his house to make room for his new girlfriend. We therefore assumed that Troy applied to college with his father’s financial support but would not have planned to continue living with him while in school. We used the median household income of Denver County from the most recent census ($47,499) for Troy’s father income, and gave both Britta and Troy the same Denver area zip code (80202). Birthdays for both characters are listed on the Community wiki and several episodes of the show establish Britta as 29 when the show premiered in 2009 and Troy as 20.
Are you considering community college or a four-year school? Check out College Abacus and find out how much it will really cost.

Monday, March 25, 2013

College Abacus Enables Students to Use Federal Shopping Sheet for All Schools, All Financial Aid Offers

With one week left until the financial aid season begins, less than 10% of the schools in the nation have adopted the federal "Financial Aid Shopping Sheet." Introduced in July 2012, the federal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is an improvement in college cost transparency, but it has one flaw: it is not a required element for school financial aid award letters.

With the newly released Abacus Shopping Sheet, college-bound students and their families can decode financial aid offers from all schools in the United States for free. Available today at CollegeAbacus.com, the Abacus Shopping Sheet helps students enter information from their financial aid letters into the standard federal shopping sheet format, and then displays the financial aid package in an easy-to-understand fashion.

Average net prices provided by the College Scorecard

“The Abacus Shopping Sheet will allow students to better understand and compare the true net costs of each institution,” said Kim Cook, executive director of the National College Access Network.
“The Abacus Shopping Sheet is a fabulous resource for a student and their family to pull back the curtains of financial obscurity and confusion and take control of their post-secondary destiny,” said Dr. Keith Frome, co-founder of College Summit and lead on the College Knowledge Challenge (an effort supported by the Gates Foundation, Facebook, College Summit and the King Center Charter School).

The new Shopping Sheet is a natural addition to College Abacus and is consistent with our mission of bringing financial transparency to the college process. 

To learn more, read the press release or test Abacus Shopping Sheet at CollegeAbacus.com/shoppingsheet

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Student Writers Needed!

Hi Writers!

At College Abacus, we are running a blog series that focuses on popular fictional characters from fiction, TV and movies. Using our new website, we are able to determine the estimated financial aid packages at different colleges for these characters. To date, we have featured Cristina Moreno (Spanglish), Akeelah Anderson (Akeelah and the Bee), Haley Dunphy (Modern Family), Gogol Ganguli (The Namesake), Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel (Glee) and Bella Swan (Twilight). You can learn more about the series by reading the post “Financial Aid & Fiction: FAQ for Readers” and our past posts.

We are looking for student writers to imagine the college searches of their favorite characters and write about them on the College Abacus blog. This is a great opportunity for writers, readers, TV watchers and future college students to publish their work and have fun. We also welcome applications from students who want to write in Spanish or other languages.To apply to be a College Abacus blogger, please write 200 words about your favorite fictional character and what you think that character would like to study in college (see the application form after the jump). Please submit your application by email to Abigail Seldin

We’re looking forward to hearing from you, and publishing your work!

--The College Abacus Team

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Thanks to Alex Williams, Jennielle Strother and Jillian Hiscock for hosting College Abacus on last week’s #EMchat. It was great to chat about college cost transparency with the group!

For a transcript of the chat, click here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

For low-income students, College Scorecard misses the mark

InsideHigherEd published an editorial by College Abacus co-founder Abigail Seldin today! The piece focuses on the limitations of the College Scorecard, and highlights the gap between average net price and individualize net price for low-income students.

You can read the piece - and see the infographic comparing Cristina Moreno’s individualized net price to the average net price - here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

College Abacus on CNN!

CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht highlighted College Abacus in her analysis of the new College Scorecard. After comparing the average net prices offered by the Scorecard with the individualized net prices generated by College Abacus, Gumbrecht asks, “So is the College Scorecard even a good idea?”

You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The State of the Union, the College Scorecard and College Abacus

President Obama’s announcement of the College Scoreboard’s release at tonight’s State of the Union address comes as a pleasant surprise to College Abacus. Though a 2012 report by the Center for American Progress revealed the shortcomings of the College Scorecard’s first public draft, we are always excited to see government action in support of higher education pricing transparency.

With the support of our new grant from the Gates Foundation’s College Knowledge Challenge, College Abacus will go two steps beyond the College Scorecard. At our official launch in September 2013, College Abacus will provide college-bound students with an easy way to generate individualized net-price results and our results page will include the full sweep of required items from the scorecard. Our ShoppingSheet function, now in development, will allow students to manually enter data from their college aid award letters, thereby enabling them to compare financial aid packages with ease and to view their awards within the context of their net price calculator results. By 2015, we expect to collect sufficient data to begin issuing accuracy scores for net price calculators – a step yet to be taken or even encouraged by the Department of Education. Though net price calculator results are not intended to be exact, we at College Abacus believe that schools should offer students results that are within striking distance of their final financial aid award.

What additional metrics we should include to help students access accurate information about college costs? Drop us a line and share your thoughts.