A new internet service wants to treat college tuition like an auction, matching students' financial "bids" to colleges willing to offer discounted tuition rates.
The site (eCollegebid.org) asks students to submit the amount they are willing or able to pay to attend college.
Students also are asked to specify a region of the country they would like to be in, an area of study, whether they want to commute or live in a dorm, and what interests they have.
Bidders find out the identity of the school they might attend only if their bid is accepted. The service is free, and students are under no obligation to accept once they are matched with a college.
Founder Ted Kelly said that although eCollegebid has fewer than a dozen schools signed up at the moment, he expects to have many more by Nov. 1.
The service is targeting schools with leftover seats at the end of the admissions cycle, particularly liberal arts colleges that are likely to take students with SAT scores between 800 and 1,000 and grade-point averages of 2.5 to 2.9.
Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, said the service preys on families' anxiety about the high cost of a college education.
"That there are colleges that are so desperate to get a body with some money is the wrong message to send about education," Smith told The Boston Globe.
"One would hope that a college is recruiting a student to come because they have a good match, something that suggests a student should be there other than 'I can afford to pay.' "
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society