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Net Price and Estimated Family Contribution Calculators:

Beginning in late October 2011, all colleges and universities are mandated to have a net price calculator available on their Web site. This tool will assist families to manage their financial expectations early on in the planning stages. The net price calculator estimates a prospective students financial aid, including dollar amounts for grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study funds as well as expected out-of-pocket expenses. It is strongly recommended that families investigate the calculators for those institutions on your child's college list. The calculator should be easy to identify within the admission and financial aid pages of each college. By taking the time to research each institution, your family will have a better understanding of financial aid and the costs involved in funding your child's college experience.

CollegeBoard Net Price Calculator Clearinghouse

U.S. Dept of Education's Net Price Calculator Center

To read more about the net price calculator, we recommend families read the following articles:

"The Net Price Calculator: Financial Aid ‘Game-Changer’?" 

"Clarity and Confusion From Tuition Calculators"

"Net Price Calculators: Wins and Warnings"

"Getting the Most Out of Financial Aid"

"When Colleges Low Ball Costs"

In addition to the net price calculator, there are several estimated family contribution calculators. These calculators are especially useful for families with younger children who are interested in determining what their family may be expected to contribute toward college costs. Links to some of the most common calculators can be found below.


CollegeBoard Calculators

2014-15 Federal EFC Quick Reference Table

Other great resources include the College Navigator and College Affordability and Transparency Center.  The National Center for Educational Statistics provides these free consumer information tools designed to help students and parents compare information on thousands of institutions, including retention and graduation rates, net price and historical tuition costs.

College Navigator      College Affordability Center          

College Scorecards in the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center make it easier for you to search for a college that is a good fit for you. You can use the College Scorecard to find out more about a college’s affordability and value so you can make more informed decisions about which college to attend.

Interactive College Scorecard

The Following Excerpt was Taken from a Blog on Net Price vs. Actual Price of College Tuition:

 Ashley’s Mom: College costs are ridiculous.  They’re so out of line with reality.  I mean, $40,000 a year?  My parents paid $15,000 to send me to the same school. 

Me: And that was only about 7-8 years ago.

Of course. 

Well, okay, how much do you think they should be charging?

Well, I guess, with inflation over those “7 or 8″ years, and with technology costs – I don’t know – maybe $25,000.  But 40?  That’s just insane.

They do.

They do what?

They charge $25,000.

The average college tuition discount for the freshman class of 2008 was 41.8%.  That means that the average tuition bill for a college with a $40,000 price tag was actually…$23,280.

A college education – in general – is not cheap.  And tuition continues to rise far too fast and far too high.  Saying that, colleges have still gone out of their way to make the situation seem even WORSE.  Colleges have managed to take a D and turn it into an F.  On purpose.


From my years on ‘the dark side’, I can pinpoint three reasons – they involve control, fear and a bottle of Scotch.

CONTROL: By creating artificially inflated prices and high discount rates, they have much greater control of the actual price for each customer.  They can attempt to mold their student enrollment by determining who pays $40,000, who pays $23,280 and who pays even less.

FEAR: If everyone else is doing it…

A BOTTLE OF SCOTCH: Colleges are HUGE fans of the Chivas Regal Effect.  For those of you not familiar, Chivas Regal was a relatively unknown brand of scotch whiskey until…it raised its price and positioned itself as a distinguished, classy adult beverage of choice.  The idea is that a college that is ‘too affordable’ will be perceived as ‘not good’.  Colleges have thirstily gulped down that philosophy.

So, what does this mean for Ashley and me?

  • Well, don’t rule a school out because of sticker price.  At least in the beginning.  Ashley might end up being in the Full Pay column, but she may be in the $23,280 group or an even more favorable group.  Maybe College X is down in New Jersey recruitment this year or they need more ‘good citizens’ from suburban homes in the northeast.
  • But, be prepared to make those decisions down the road, as financial aid packages and scholarship announcements and Leadership/Citizenship Grant letters come in.  Or don’t, as the case may be.  Don’t assume the best case scenario.
  • Review financial aid packages carefully, as well as scholarship and grant offers.  The new ‘Net Price Calculator’ that is now required of every school should/might/could help, but – regardless – be aware of actual costs and the total amount of ‘given money’ vs. work vs. loans.
  • Make sure you understand the bottom line.  What will you actually be paying?  To borrow from Sy and Marcy Syms, an educated consumer IS a college’s best customer.

 *taken from College Counseling for the Rest of Us

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