The Educational Credit Management Association, a student loan guarantor, announced Monday that it has acquired College Abacus, a website that allows prospective students to compare colleges by net price.
Federal law requires colleges and universities to post net price calculators on their websites. Net price calculators tell students how much they’ll have to pay after grants and scholarships. College Abacus draws from the calculators of nearly 4,000 institutions and lets students compare institutions by price. The site was launched as a for-profit in an attempt to recoup “tremendous startup costs,” said Abigail Seldin, the company’s co-founder. The acquisition by ECMC marks the site’s move to nonprofit status.
College Abacus would not have been able to keep its service free for the long-term and succeed as a business, Seldin said. She said gaining nonprofit status was the best way to keep the site free for students. The company's for-profit status also raised some awkward questions. A "frequently asked questions" tab on the company's old website (the for-profit collegeabacus.com, rather than the new nonprofit collegeabacus.org) included the question: "I noticed that you are incorporated as a C-Corp, not a 501c(3). Are you evil?"
With the ECMC's help, the company will develop a widget by the end of the year that will allow any website to host College Abacus's calculator for free, Seldin said.