Internet Service Offers College Tuition Bidding Service
BOSTON — Savvy internet shoppers have been bidding of late for airplane tickets, hotel fares, used cars. Now, they can bid for college tuition.
A newly launched Internet service wants to treat college tuition like an auction, matching students’ financial “bids” to colleges willing to offer discounted tuition rates.
The founders of eCollegebid.org say its service appeals to families who make too much money to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to pay tuition in cash.
But college admissions officers say the service preys on families’ anxiety about the cost of a college education.
The service asks students to submit the amount they are willing or able to pay to attend college, whether they want to commute or live in a dorm, what sports or interests they have and to specify a region where they would like to attend school and an area of study.
The bidders find out the identity of the school they might attend only if their bid is accepted. The service is free, and students are under no obligation to accept the universities’ bids.
“It is the inevitable and logical and probably very useful result of the chaos in college pricing,” says Gordon Winston, an economics professor at Williams College and the director of the Williams project on the economics of higher education. “This will clearly increase the customer’s power to extract concessions.”
The idea of bidding for tuition is based on the fact that there are hundreds of less competitive schools with empty seats at the end of the admissions cycle.
The founders of Falls Church, Va.-based eCollegebid.org say they have identified up to 800 private colleges and universities that could participate, and say they have signed up a few institutions.
Founder Tedd Kelly would not name the institutions participating in the service, but said that although they have fewer than a dozen at the moment, he will have many more by Nov. 1.
He is targeting schools with leftover seats, most likely liberal arts schools in the Midwest that are likely to take students who have SAT scores between 800 and 1,000 and grade-point averages of 2.5 to 2.9.
But college admissions counselors also have raised concerns about the service.
“That there are colleges that are so desperate to get a body with some money is the wrong message to send about education,” Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, told The Boston Globe. “One would hope that a college is recruiting a student to come because they have a good match, an academic environment, something that suggests a student should be there other than, ‘I can afford to pay.'”
— The Associated Press
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