College Matching: A new World Wide Web site with information on 9,000 public and private institutions of higher education offers a consumer-friendly way to shop for postsecondary schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which established the site.
The College Opportunities On-Line, or COOL, Web site asks students to plug in their intended majors and the geographic regions in which they'd like to attend school, and then fetches profiles on colleges that are likely matches. The site's address is www.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cool.
The profiles, which include both two-year and four-year institutions, give cost and enrollment breakdowns for the past three years. They also describe the financial aid offered and the percentage of students who received the aid.
"Just as we've downsized and streamlined the government, we need to ensure that colleges offer the best education at the lowest possible cost," said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee who, along with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, unveiled the site March 24.
The site will be well-received by teenagers because it is free and easy to use, said Jon Isaacs, the organizing director of the United States Students Association, a Washington-based organization that addresses national policy issues on behalf of college students. "If you want to reach young people, you'd be missing the boat not to put [information] on the Web," Mr. Isaacs said.
The 5-inch-thick college resource catalogs that are available for $50 and $60 each in bookstores are nearly antiquated, he said.
The Web sites, however, may be inaccessible to families that do not have home computers, cautioned Joyce E. Smith, the executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Alexandria, Va.
Moreover, families can feel overwhelmed when surfing the Internet, Ms. Smith said. Many users can't distinguish between sites that offer objective information on colleges and those that offer information on institutions or scholarships as bait to lure teenagers to their Web pages."When people sit down and look for scholarships, they get lots of garbage," Ms. Smith said. "We almost need a traffic cop out there."
Secretary Riley said he sees the site as a companion to traditional research methods. His department, he said, "wants to get [students] started on the path to pursue the degree or training they need."
Vol. 19, Issue 30, Page 5