Beginning on October 29, all college websites are required by law to include a “net price calculator” tool. The law is part of a movement to attempt to provide more transparency for students and their parents on just how much earning that degree will really cost.
The tool will allow individuals to enter their personalized financial information, which will indicate if the student is eligible for grants, loans, or other forms of financial assistance. There are also options to include housing costs, as well as the costs of any other family members already attending school.
In 2010, the College Board found that the average cost of tuition and fees at a private, not-for-profit four-year school was just over $27,000. This figure doesn’t include housing and meal costs, which will raise the financial impact significantly. The Board also found that the average amount of grants awarded to students at these schools was $6,000, helping to offset the total cost considerably.
Some private schools are hopeful that the net price calculator tool will encourage students and families to consider attending schools that are in a higher price range. They believe that the amount of scholarship money available through these institutions may cause many to see that the difference in cost between lower and higher-priced schools is not as vast as they may have suspected.
There are also concerns about some schools adhering to the letter of the law, but not to the spirit of the law. The Institute for College Access and Success has reported instances of the calculator tool being buried in hard-to-find parts of the college website and other questionable tactics. Perhaps, though, this will be an indication to students and families that these schools have something to hide, and may be places to avoid.