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Comparison Shopping For Colleges

April 11, 2012, 5:58 PM by Peggy Moyer

Comparison Shopping For Colleges
SIOXU FALLS, SD -

A new website aims to help students comparison shop for colleges.

The amount of student loan debt now tops one trillion dollars. That's more than credit cards and car loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says students considering college need to know now more than ever all of the costs associated with their degree.

South Dakota has the largest percentage of students leaving college with debt in the U.S., averaging more than $23,000.  While students know they'll be in debt after graduation, they don't know how much or how long it will take to pay it off.

Many high school seniors are now deciding what institution they want to go to. The "Know Before You Go" program is designed to take the confusion out of the financial piece.

With help of a new website, students and parents compare the price of colleges online. Students can enter in the schools of their choice and the value of any aid like scholarships or Pell Grants.  The website calculates the size of loan needed and what monthly payments would look like after graduation.

Students say the website addresses what's on their minds.

"I'm pretty stressed about the finances of college. It's a lot to deal with. I'm trying to, as much as I can, save up money for that," Harrisburg senior Rachael Larson said.

Jackie Geppert-Anderson is a guidance counselor at Lincoln High in Sioux Falls and she says the website will open a dialogue between students and parents.

"When you get to the financial part of it, you don't want to say, 'You can't afford this; you can't afford that.' So then the kids can sit down with parents and compare three schools and see financially if I would be able to afford to go to these schools or not," Geppert-Anderson said.

The BETA version of the website went up Wednesday afternoon. The "Know Before You Owe" program wants feedback on the site to make it as useful as possible for students.

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