The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, passed in August of that year, requires colleges to provide a ‘Net Price Calculator’ on their websites by October 29, 2011. What this means for families of students applying to college, is that they will now have the ability to determine the actual cost a student will incur if they decide to attend a specific college. Whereas in the past, many families would just consider the “sticker price,” the published cost of tuition, fees, books, housing, etc., now they should have a more realistic idea of what they will actually have to pay for college, after all aid has been calculated into the price.
It is hoped that with this new tool, students and their families will be able to make better informed choices based upon the realistic cost of attending an institution. One potential benefit of this new requirement is that some families may realize that they do not have to rule out a specific college or colleges that may seem out of their price range if they are just considering the “sticker price.” Often it is hard for families to get an accurate picture of what they will ultimate have to pay for college.
Some colleges have put net price calculators on their websites well in advance of the law’s deadline. These include several Ivy League schools, M.I.T., and locally, Albright College. Families should be aware that the federal government has created a net price calculator template that colleges can use in developing their own versions. In some cases the calculators created based upon this template may be less accurate than ones developed by the colleges themselves, since they may not take into account some of the variables specific to an individual school. Therefore parents should make sure to ask someone at the financial aid office at each school they are considering whether the college created its own net price calculator, and how accurate the results tend to be.
Good luck with your college search!