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Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:30 p.m.

Federal college cost calculator launches next phase

Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said the new website would better inform prospective college students of the financial implications of their decisions. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Federal efforts to demystify the cost of college moved forward today with the release of an online college comparison shopper.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched the Financial Aid Comparison Shopper to allow prospective students to to compare the financial implications of attendance at institutions where they were accepted. The effort is another step in a series of federal programs to break down universities’ sticker prices and financial aid packages.

The website allows students to enter up to three colleges, then spits out the sticker price, average scholarship package and estimated monthly loan payments at each, with an option to input the user’s exact financial aid offer. It also provides the same information for the average public and private universities as additional points of comparison.

The tool will not estimate total debt burden upon graduation, according to its website.

Student loan debt nationwide likely crossed the $1 trillion threshold late last year, although revised estimates only acknowledged the mile marker last month, the Wall Street Journal reported March 22. Many have since warned that the student debt bubble could be an impediment to overall economic recovery, preventing college-aged borrowers from being able to afford a home or qualify for a mortgage.

The average graduate left college with $25,250 in student loan debt in 2010, according to the most recent data from The Project on Student Debt – a figure the typical GW student topped by more than $7,000.

“Now more than ever, students and their families need to know before they owe. Our Financial Aid Comparison Shopper helps students make apples to apples comparisons of their offers and pick the one that works best for their financial future,” Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, said in a release.

The new website is part of the “Know Before You Owe” campaign, which was first announced in November. The bureau opened in 2011 in response to the economic crisis.

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