PNC Bank Corp. has made a $4 million equity investment in a company that enables prospective students to apply to colleges over the Internet.

Starting in the first quarter of next year, PNC will offer student loans through, which is run by Inc. of Middletown, R.I. Cytation, which offers various education programs through the Internet, says 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States accept applications submitted through

Under a separate marketing agreement, PNC has the exclusive rights to offer financial services on Cytation's Web site.

The arrangement would put PNC in position to "answer the thousands of little questions" college students and their parents have about getting into college, financing their education, and entering the job market, said Joseph C. Guyaux, chief executive officer of PNC's regional community bank.

He said he also expects PNC's investment in to yield significant earnings, considering the early stages of the company's growth, he said.

PNC plans to add home equity and auto loans, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, brokerage, and other financial products to the site throughout the year. Mr. Guyaux said as PNC "builds out" financial services on, it would consider offering products from other providers.

The pricing of each product and service will vary, Mr. Guyaux said. "A first car purchase might be all about price, but a student loan would be more about trust and reliability," he said.

The deal came after two other marketing agreements the banking company has made in the last three weeks -- one with, a women's-interest Web site, and one with iCat, a division of Intel Corp. that develops Web storefronts for small businesses.

PNC has a history of success with affinity partnerships, most notably with AAA, the automobile club, for which it became the financial services provider in 1996.

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