The college financial aid calculator also known as the “net cost calculator” can be used as a smart shopping tool when it comes to determining college affordability.
We all know how scary it can be to go to a college or university website and take a look at their tuition, room and board costs. But does this really help students shopping for a college? Is this what a family is going to have to pay?
Well, of course not, especially if you’re eligible for financial aid for college. So what am I really going to have to pay after my financial aid has been awarded?
This is the type of information that students need to make well informed decisions that will affect their future and their budgets.
The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act requires schools receiving certain federal funding to provide on their website a “net cost calculator” to help students and families determine what they will actually pay to attend that school.
As practical as possible, the calculator is to take each individual circumstance and determine their cost by subtracting what they’re likely to receive for merit based financial aid and need based financial aid from the full cost of tuition.
In a nutshell…subtracting what you’re likely to receive for financial aid from the full cost to determine your net cost, or what you’re responsible to pay.
We show you how to meet this cost by winning scholarships rather than relying on student loans.
In my research I’ve found that some school websites are completely lacking any cost calculators, others have them buried so deep it’s almost impossible to find.
I found some that don’t present good net cost information to families and others that really have great calculators that will collect as much information about a students academic background and family need to come up with a number as close to the real thing.
Be a smart college shopper and look for the net cost calculator on the websites of schools you’re interested in. If you can’t find it, call the financial aid office and ask them where you can find it.
If they don’t have one, ask them why not.
Your net cost is not only important to your ability to make good college decisions, but it’ll give you an idea of what kind of strategy you’ll need to create to win college scholarships to make up this net cost.
If one of the schools you’re interested in doesn’t have a college financial aid calculator, you have a couple of options.
Both, College Navigator and Collegeboard do a pretty good job of giving you the net cost of a particular college based on your family income.
It’s not as tailored to your individual circumstances, but comes pretty close. It’ll at least give you a ball park number that you can probably work with.
Important to keep in mind that the numbers that these calculators give you are not set in stone and are just estimates to help you become more informed about your choices. You’ll still be responsible to fill out the FAFSA in order to determine your actual financial aid award for each school you apply to.
Build a winning scholarship strategy to cover your net cost.
Return to College Scholarships Plus Home Page