Are you experiencing sticker shock as your child begins selecting the colleges to which he or she will use? You aren’t alone. Many families view the school’s published cost of attendance, which usually generally includes tuition, fees, area and board, books, and personal and transportation costs, and wonder the way they will pay the bill. Some combination the school off their child’s list entirely.
The Benefits of Using a College’s Net Price Calculator
Help is at hand! The college’s Net Price Calculator (NPC) will give you an estimate of what it might cost your family to send your child to a particular school. The NPC, which only takes a few minutes to complete, can give you an idea of the need-based aid and, in some cases, the merit aid your son or daughter might receive which will reduce the amount the family will have to pay. The calculator will also estimate your child’s eligibility for function study funds and federal student loans .
When completing the calculator, it’s helpful to have a copy of the most recent tax return and statements from any bank or investment accounts held by the mothers and fathers and/or the student. Don’t include the value of retirement balances when reporting opportunities; these are not included in calculating the family’s expected contribution.
Where to Find a College’s Net Cost Calculator
To find the NPC for an individual college, visit the school’s web site. At many schools, it will be on the financial aid or finance page. At others, you may need to search the whole website or even call the college to find out where to find its NPC. If you are looking at private colleges, you can find a lot of net price calculators at the University Board’s website ( http://studentnpc.collegeboard.org/participating-schools ).
As you don’t need an account to use the calculators, it can’t hurt to have your child set one up as there is a lot of great information available on the site. The NPC will ask questions about your family’s income and assets, information you can save that can then be used around the NPC for different schools. You may also edit information as it changes. Note that in case a school asks for information about your child’s class rank, GPA and the amount of Honors/AP/IB courses taken, they are gathering information to allow them to include an estimate associated with potential merit aid.
Interpreting the NPC’s Estimated Cost
Once you’ve inserted your information, the calculator will figure out an estimated net price you may be questioned to pay. Many of the calculators will give an expense that reflects the impact associated with possible scholarships and grants. Unfortunately, some calculators will also reduce your net price by student loans, work study funds and self-help, the amount the student is certainly expected to contribute from anticipated summer time earnings. Since these do not really reduce the amount the family will pay, College Coach considers them part of the family’s expenses and encourages you to add function study and loan funds back to the figure the net price tool provides.
If utilized carefully, with the most accurate information you are able to provide, these calculators can be a helpful tool in helping you understand the range associated with costs your family might face each and every college. It’s important to remember that these are estimates only, and that the schools are using averages based on historical ideals in the calculators. Each school has a disclaimer that they will not be held towards the results and that the information is for the first freshman for the first year only.
But while not fool-proof, the Net Price Calculator can be a excellent antidote to sticker shock!
Jeanne Mahan is a member of University Coach’s team of college finance experts. She worked as a senior educational funding officer at Tufts University and Quinsigamond Community College before joining College Coach.