Whenever I find a few colleges to add to the colleges a student and his parents are considering, I often hear "nobody's heard of THAT school". By that they mean, if I have not heard of that school and my friends are not dying to get in to that one, it can't be much of a college. The parent corollary is "none of my friends are hoping to get their kids into that one, so it can't be much of a college".
One problem that occurs when families are college shopping is that they can fall into the same trap that awaits car shoppers; a brand that they do not know much about is suspect. Instead of inspecting the unknown brand, they often try to stick with colleges they know.
Confining a college search to well-known colleges causes families to leave high quality options with more competitive prices off the table in favor of what may be higher-priced schools that are less of a good fit for their kids.
Another problem with confining a college search to more popular colleges is that there is more competition for admission at those schools which can mean that their son or daughter may have trouble being admitted and have fewer scholarship options.
Families save the most money at the college selection stage. After that, the options to save money diminish.