Web links students, colleges

The Education Department showed off its COOL online college database last week as it prepares to begin an entirely World Wide Web-based data collection system. Education's College Opportunities On-Line, which enables students to search more than 10,000 schools, was demonstrated at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C.

COOL users can search by location, program or degree offerings. Search results present data such as tuition and fees and housing, contact, enrollment and program information. Results also provide links to college Web sites.

"It gives students a lot more information a lot handier, and they are better able to make a decision where they might be interested in going to school," said Susan Broyles, project director of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which oversees COOL.

COOL was rolled out a year ago and continues to evolve. Data had been collected from colleges via paper surveys, but through IPEDS, Education has added online data collection.

For the upcoming academic year, IPEDS will enable institutions to provide all the required statistical data via the Web. Last year, only tuition, enrollment and other basic information was collected, not more detailed information such as graduation rates, Broyles said.

The system collects other information required by Education — such as crime statistics — but not presented on COOL. A link might be created to that information in the future, said Lynne Smith, solutions manager at Unisys Corp., which developed COOL and the data collection system.

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