Monday, July 16, 2012

Preparing to Face College Tuition: The Net Price Calculator

Everyone knows college is getting more and more expensive. Each year, it seems, institutions across the country hike up tuition a little more. However, are rate hikes as steep a they seem? A recent analysis by NPR's financial blog Planet Money found that just as college sticker prices have risen, available scholarship and grant money is on the rise too. The upswing in tuition and grants almost matches, meaning that the net cost of attending college may actually not have risen as much as is popularly believed.

This sounds like great news, but what can students realistically expect to pay? To help families grapple with this question as they prepare to confront the cost of sending their children to universities, colleges are now required to post a very useful net price calculator on their websites. Planet Money explains that the calculator poses questions about the student's performance and his/her family's financial situation, then calculates what the likely tuition will be. For many students, the cost is considerably lower than the advertised sticker price once applicable scholarships and grants are figured in. The National Center for Education Statistics has a  useful page containing more information about the calculator; it's worth a visit for anyone who plans to pay for higher education in the near future.

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