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Free College Explorer Tool Adds Cost Analysis

NWEA, a nonprofit provider of assessment solutions, has updated a free tool that helps students identify a good college fit for their areas of interest and academic strengths. The new version of the College Explorer includes major category and cost analysis features and is appropriate, the organization said, to be used as early as fifth grade.

The idea is to help students begin to envision possibilities for careers, understand what's needed and work on developing a plan to put their post-secondary dreams within reach. The tool links NWEA's MAP Growth scores for students in grades 5-9 with national benchmarks to colleges and universities and specific majors, based on the median ACT and SAT scores of students who gained admittance and then enrolled in those schools.

The tool offers profiles of 7,000-plus institutions of higher learning, incorporating data from the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard and the College Board, such as admissions rates, academic profiles and average advertised and actual cost to families at various income levels. Students can filter their searches on RIT, SAT or ACT scores; school name; location; degree focus; and population focus (such as religious affiliation or status as an historically Black college or university).

The site also lets students browse majors and the median SAT score for those who have indicated that they plan to major in that field of study and find median starting salaries for graduates pursuing those careers after college.

"Growing up, there was limited information available to me on the different career path options that aligned with my interests, and this was an obstacle to attending college for me," said Gregory King, a research scientist at NWEA's Center for School and Student Progress, and lead developer of the tool. "College Explorer empowers students with information that helps remove many of the roadblocks to college that they can face--from knowing how they will need to grow academically to succeed, to locating schools that match up with their interests."

College Explorer is available on the NWEA site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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