A New Way to Add Up the Cost of College
By the end of October, colleges and universities across the country must install a net price calculator on their websites.
As I’ve mentioned previously, these net price calculators are going to be a tremendous boon to families.
For the first time, a family will have a reasonable idea of what a college will cost them before a teenager ever applies. I’m not talking about published prices or average prices. Rather a calculator will provide a dollar figure based on such facts as a teenager’s GPA, test scores and class rank, as well as a family’s income and other financial information. Your net price is what you pay after grants/scholarships are deducted from the price tag.
I hope these calculators encourage families to steer clear of stingy colleges and universities, which excel at producing graduating classes that are burdened with debilitating debt. Right now parents have no way of comparing in advance whether a school is going to rip them off or not. These schools need to be outed!
If you want me to name names, here is an example of a miserly school and what can happen if you attend one when you need financial help:
The calculators won’t be perfect. Some calculators will ask more questions which will hopefully make them more accurate. Certain higher-ed players, such as the Institute for College Access & Success, worry that requiring too many inputs will discourage less educated and lower-income families from using them.
Net Price Calculator Examples
To give you an idea of how they work, I’ve linked to the calculators at a few schools that I found on the Web:
University of Vermont
Iowa State University
Seton Hall University
DigiPen Institute of Technology
St. Thomas University
You can find quite a few more schools over at the College Board’s website. These schools, including Dartmouth, Claremont McKenna, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, use the College Board’s net price calculator.
You should use college net price calculators long before your child applies to college. If the cost at a particular college is scary, keep looking.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also write a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.com and US News.