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Opinion

Hamilton should join others, support College Abacus

By Patrick English '15

November 14, 2013

Hamilton College is currently blocking a free site that allows students to generate and compare financial aid estimates before they decide where to apply.

Founded by Rhodes scholar Abigail Seldin, College Abacus allows students to enter their financial aid information and receive an estimate of their “net price” at over 200 colleges and universities. Students can receive their net price at any three colleges for free and can get as many comparisons as they like. The site also charges $100 for a list of the prices of the top 200 colleges and universities. College Abacus is well credited, receiving a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation’s College Knowledge Challenge.

However, Student Aid Services, an organization that manages the net prices for about 700 colleges, began refusing the traffic that was coming from College Abacus’ Internet Protocol Address, just days after its launch. Student Aid Services argues that College Abacus is taking colleges’ proprietary information without permission, and charging for it when the colleges provide it for free.

Company spokeswoman Mary Fallon worries that the site is providing inaccurate information and could sell students’ personal information. College officials also argue that the program could lead to students choosing colleges by price rather than quality of education. While Seldin said that College Abacus will never sell this information, this is hard to believe. She did originally consider selling students’ contact information to cover site costs.

Despite these shortcomings, College Abacus has gained more support than opposition among colleges. Student Aid Services clients Middlebury, Yale and Washington University of St. Louis all asked to have their prices listed on the site.

Hamilton is one of only 33 colleges that currently blocks its information from the site, showing that most other colleges are not as opposed to the program. The majority of these colleges have calculators operated by Rezolve, best known for operating Fafsa.com. Only Middlebury, Yale and Washington University of St. Louis have spoken out against Rezolve.

Given these facts and figures, it is a tough call to determine who is right. Rezolve, Student Aid Services, and the colleges all have their own agendas and their own reasons for subscribing or not subscribing to College Abacus. Therefore, it is understandable that Hamilton would block this site. If other organizations and institutions find problems with the program, it could not be as good as it seems.

Still, Hamilton should join these institutions in coming out against Rezolve. College Abacus provides students with a wealth of information they never had before. In the past, students had to enter their financial information separately into each college calculator. This process could take over two hours to price shop for just 10 colleges, and it provided only “sticker prices” rather than “net prices.”

With overwhelming support from colleges and other educational institutions, College Abacus provides unrivaled service to prospective students. It is time for Hamilton to post their financial information on College Abacus. Its listing on this site will only increase Hamilton’s recognition. Moreover, Hamilton has nothing to hide. As a need-blind institution, the college is a worthy option for prospective low and middle-income students.

The information provided on College Abacus is already available on Hamilton’s website. This program makes it more readily accessible to prospective students

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