Some tips for exploring college options:
1. Go to http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/index.html to see if the college you're considering is accredited and to make sure you understand the different types of accreditation, which can affect your ability to transfer or the value of your degree in the job market.
2. Go to sites such as http://collegecost.ed.gov to research college costs but also use the "net price calculator" required by law on every college's website to get an estimate of how much financial aid you might receive. Your true cost may be far less than the list price.
3. Go to http://www.collegeresults.org to see if your college has a good graduation rate. And a new site at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/payingforcollege/costcomparison can help you estimate what you might owe after graduating from a particular school, though it's still in testing.
4. If you need to borrow money, take out as much as you can from the federal government before taking out a private loan. Federal loans generally carry stronger consumer protections. See www.ed.gov/finaid.