As mandated in 2008, the Department of Education has debuted a nifty, intuitive website today to size up the most expensive and least expensive higher-education institutions by type. It's called the "College Affordability and Transparency Center" and it uses information requested from colleges nationwide to create a three-step interactive process for users to generate a list of tuition fees for public, private, for-profit and not-for-profit universities. Another potentially handy feature is the interactive list on the homepage detailing the colleges with the highest tuition rate increases over two years.

The website doesn't seem to be intended to displace all those sites (Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report) generating lists you already compulsively check if you're beginning the college application process. It is, however, a nice guide for wary parents and prospective students. By the way, the most expensive private, not-for-profit, four year institution is Bates College: it clocks in at $51,300 per well-heeled year of schooling.