Buyer Beware: Deceptive Pricing Is Everywhere … Even College

There's not as much regulation as you might think. Buyer Beware: Deceptive Pricing Is Everywhere … Even College NowThis/Giphy

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It’s hardly surprising anymore to see Company A claim its product or service is more affordable than a similar option from Company B — only for Company B to come out with its claim that Company A is charging more.

Of course, both might technically be correct if they’re cherry-picking data to suit their agenda. But savvy shoppers know that they need to read the fine print to figure out where they’ll actually get the most for their money.

Education is no exception

With millions of Americans drowning in college loan debt, it’s clear that many students aren’t exactly bargain-shopping before entering their freshman year. Nevertheless, college recruiters and administrators do their best to convince prospective enrollees that their institution offers the biggest educational bang for the buck.

In many cases, students receive a quoted cost for tuition and other costs alongside estimates from competing schools. And (big surprise) the rival schools are almost always more expensive … at least on paper.

There are no guarantees

Just because someone shows you a competitive price doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll actually pay. There are many factors that impact the cost of college tuition and much of the time they aren’t reflected in the calculations that recruiters use to arrive at their total.

Some things to remember include:

  • Financial aid and scholarships can vary widely from one institution to another.
  • You probably won’t know all of the data that goes into creating the estimate.
  • There aren’t really any laws preventing colleges from fudging the numbers.

There are some safeguards in place, such as a 2011 requirement that all colleges provide access to something called a “net price calculator.”

But there are still some big blind spots that allow schools to legally comply without providing the transparency that would actually benefit new students.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 3rd, 2023
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