A Fresh, Data-Based Approach to College Applications

Philadelphia Startup College Money Search Offers A New View

School is out for the summer and for some high school students that means it’s time to begin the college search. This process can be arduous with some many factors to consider: Reputation, degree programs, location, culture, and, of course, cost.  Financial aid expert Debbie Schwartz founded two companies that take the uncertainty out of the application process by helping families chart a carefully-designed course to college.

Through Road2College and College Money Search, parents and their ambitious students can easily research scholarships, loans, standardized test scores, and rankings with sound financial advice.

“Families should be more strategic about where students apply,” Schwartz said. “Just going for the best school a kid can get into no matter the cost isn’t always the best choice and doesn’t just affect them for four years, but long after they graduate.”

Founded in 2014, Road2College offers advice and anecdotes from parents and experts who have first-hand experience guiding families and students applying to and attending college.

College Money Search, Schwartz’s newest startup co-founded with college data guru Michelle Kretzschmar, is in its first year of helping families understand how to find the right school – and prudently finance an education – through proven analytics.

“We teach people how to research the schools that students should be looking at, the colleges where they can receive the most scholarship money and have the best experience,” Schwartz said.

College Money Search offers educational classes, financial resources, and a “money list” with a personalized algorithm for students to find schools that will offer the best financial packages based on their aspirations, backgrounds, and academic records.

“A lot of companies focus on consolidating and refinancing student loans after graduation because that’s where the profits are,” Schwartz said. “We want to reach and help families as early as possible so they understand what’s ahead and don’t end up in debt.”

Much of Schwartz’s college planning philosophy relies on a pragmatic approach that maximizes educational return for minimal cost.

“The media likes to focus on colleges that rank ‘best,’ which is subjective and adds emotion to the process,” Schwartz added. “We are changing the paradigm of how people approach the process by using data to show there is actually more value in finding an affordable college, not just the one with the best brand name.”

As college tuition continues to rise, there will be even greater need for careful financial planning. In Schwartz’s own research, she found that college tuition was just 10% of household income when she attended school – now, it’s a shocking 40%.

“The reason I started doing this is that debt is so pervasive and it affects multiple generations, the students and their parents,” she said. “I always reiterate that it’s not really student debt, it’s family debt.”

You can learn more about a new way to approach planning for college at CollegeMoneySearch.com or on the site’s incredible Facebook community Paying For College 101, where parents and students from across the country ask questions and share advice.