#036 How to know if a college is giving their best price

Show Notes


With the high cost of college, don’t you wish you could pull back the curtain on college pricing to be sure you are getting their best offer for your teen? My guest, Mark Salisbury, created TuitionFit to gather information and put it into a “Kelly Bluebook” of college pricing. Whether your student is just starting to consider and visit colleges or they’ve already applied or even been excepted, the data Mark will provide you for free will help you know if you are getting a good deal or perhaps it’s worth asking for a bigger discount. Mark gathers student profiles and financial award letters to create a data set with amazing benefits for your student and their family. Price transparency means you can get the best price for higher education, so I hope you listen to the episode!


Did you know that only 1 in 10 freshmen pays the advertised sticker price at their university? That is just one reason why my guest Mark Salisbury created TuitionFit, a crowdfunded data set built from about 20 thousand college award letters to date. He’s seen too many small colleges with high sticker prices fail to get enough students despite giving discounts to everyone who applied. By letting families like yours know what you’ll pay if your student gets into the schools they applied to, he hopes applying for college will become more like buying a house or car. After all, step number one in building a healthy college list should be figuring out your budget!

TuitionFit receives actual student offer letters, hides the personal details, and then sorts the data based on the student’s academic profile, award letter, and the name of the college. That data set allows your family to compare prices, and Mark revealed to me how most families who appealed for more financial aid received a more competitive offer, all because they now had power and agency as a consumer. Mark is joined by various independent college counselors, college search professionals, and access organizations, forming the TuitionFit Collaborative to help more students.

Remember, you’re the consumer when it comes to paying for college. You need information and price transparency to make wise and informed choices. Mark knows colleges build wiggle room into their pricing, and your family shouldn’t have to pay more than you can afford or the college can afford to give you. Even if you’re just thinking about colleges right now, TuitionFit can help you shop by price and build your preferred college list to get the best value for your money!


  • Using college price transparency to build a college list with financial fit for your family
  • How you can know what other students with a similar academic profile are paying for the same college
  • Tips for negotiating a better offer than a college offered you at admission
  • Learn how the free Tuition Fit tool works & how your family can benefit

Meet Our Guest

Mark Salisbury is a nationally-renowned author, speaker, educator, and champion of college price transparency as a primary way to simplify and improve the college admissions process.  His work has been highlighted by the New York Times, Forbes, NBC, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and NPR.  In addition, he is a regular guest on a myriad of podcasts addressing college admissions and the higher education industry.  Mark earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and holds additional degrees from the University of Minnesota and the University of Kansas.  Before launching the TuitionFit project (tuitionfit.org) to empower the public by crowdsourcing college price transparency, he was an Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Institutional Research at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, a Board member for the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium.

Mark’s experience in higher education spans a quarter century at both large and small colleges and universities.  He began his career in college athletics, coaching both men’s and women’s soccer at NCAA div. 1 and 2 universities.  After a decade in college athletics, during a period of intense growth and change in women’s sports, Mark stepped away from coaching to focus on admissions and financial aid.  Shortly thereafter, he accepted a research assistantship on a national, six-year study of college students based at the University of Iowa. This launched a new phase of Mark’s career as a higher education scholar, consultant, writer, and speaker.

Mark continues to write and present to audiences across the higher education landscape.  His work with TuitionFit is featured in two new best-selling books that take you behind the scenes of what’s going on in the financial aid system- Jeff Sellingo’s “Who Gets In and Why” and Ron Lieber’s “The Price You Pay for College.” Both of these ground-breaking best sellers are listed among our top eight book selections and are a must read for parents with college-bound children. He is also a strategic partner with My College Planning Team and consults with MCPT regularly to assist families to increase their financial aid through the appeals process.

In addition to his work in higher education, Mark has been a professional musician, a stand-up comedian, and an improv theater performer, even conducting workshops across the country for educators on how to apply the principles of improvisation to improve teaching and learning.

Mark lives in Davenport, Iowa, with his wife, two sons, and five cats (MEOW!).

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Links mentioned in this episode

Tuition Fit Website

Episode #032 Your College List: Financial Fit

Launch College & Career Clarity Course

Launch College and Career Clarity Facebook Community


[01:40] Introducing my guest Mark Salisbury, an expert on college pricing

[02:38] Retelling the origin story of Mark’s price sharing group TuitionFit

[04:50] For hurting families, TuitionFit is like the Kelly Blue Book

[06:37] How the system works, starting from student offer award letters

[09:57] First major benefit of learning what prices have been offered

[11:36] Their data set can also help students building college lists

[15:30] How price transparency helps all consumers make better financial decisions

[19:27] Many counselors have now joined TuitionFit to help their students

[20:18] Ways to learn more about TuitionFit or ask Mark questions

[20:49] Be a smart consumer when paying for college with TuitionFit!

Access the episode transcript here.