What Is a Net Price Calculator?
Every year, students like you embark on the college selection journey without understanding how much it will cost. The key number for you to focus on is your annual net price – how much your family will be responsible for paying AFTER federal, state and institutional aid has been awarded. New technology called a “net price calculator” may make determining this important number easier.
For decades, many parents and aspiring college students have begun the process by looking at published costs of enrollment, called the “sticker price”. However, the sticker price for college is often very different from the “net price”. Understanding your expected net price for various colleges is the first step towards making an affordable college choice.
The U.S. Department of Education has mandated that every college across the country provide a “net price calculator” on its website by the end of October 2011. A net price calculator is an interactive, personalized tool that helps you better understand how much the cost of college will be and how that price fits into your family’s budget and circumstances. It is important to remember that the information provided is an estimate – not a guarantee.
This interactive tool will help you estimate your true out-of-pocket cost to attend college based on your unique financial situation and college choices. The results are based on each college’s cost of attendance, your financial aid eligibility and recent financial aid awards at the college. After using a net price calculator, you should have a better understanding of your financial aid eligibility and more realistic expectations on which colleges you can afford. But “should” is the operative word, since the accuracy of net price calculators varies from college to college.
Understanding Your Net Cost of College
Net price is the estimated difference between a college’s average cost of attendance (covering tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses, such as personal expenses and transportation) and need- and merit-based grant aid awards. Private grants and scholarships are not included in the calculation, so these will need to be factored in separately.