Finally, a look at the REAL cost of college

Finally, a look at the REAL cost of college

Let the net-price calculator do the number crunching

As a principal’s daughter, I’m obsessed with the place where personal finance meets education—particularly the cost of college today. So naturally, I was fascinated by an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Colleges Weigh How to Estimate Cost to Families.”

The exciting news is that a federal law will soon require colleges to post net-price calculators on their websites. Basically, you enter a little personal information, and the calculator estimates how much you might receive in grants and other aid, and then gives you a total price estimate for attending.

Without these calculators, folks can only see the sticker price, submit the FAFSA, apply for other grants/scholarships, and wait to see how much financial aid they get. By the time they hear, students often have only a few weeks to decide on a school.

Start patrolling for calculators in October 2011, when the law goes into effect. Colleges can decide whether to use the government-provided calculator or create one that’s more specific to the way they factor aid. But some colleges already have similar tools on their sites, so look carefully and you may luck out.

Best part: There’s speculation that at some point a Kayak-like site will be created that allows families to compare their net price at each college. Genius!

Do you think net-price calculators would have influenced where you went to school or where you sent your kids to school?

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