Most parents aren’t going to pay full price for college.
Too bad parents and teenagers don’t know this. If they did, it would certainly expand the college choices of millions of students. And that’s a big reason why the federal government is requiring colleges and universities to post college cost calculators on their websites. These so-called net price calculators are supposed to provide individual families with an idea of what the price will be for their child to attend a particular institution.
Using a net price calculator, one family might discover that a $50,000 college will cost them only $7,500. Another family using the calculator could determine that the cost, will in fact, be $50,000 for them.
Colleges must install their net-price calculators no later than October 2011. Some early birds already have their calculators in place.
These calculators could bring much-needed transparency into college prices, but there is one significant problem. Colleges can develop their own calculators, but many are expected to use the federal calculator template, which is flawed. Using federal college cost calculators could give you a wildly inaccurate number. You can read more about problems with the federal college cost calculator at my college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.