The Real Cost of College: Are Elite Colleges More Affordable than Assumed?

September 20, 2013 

Figuring out the real cost of college is not an easy task for students and families. Though most universities have adopted some kind of a net price calculator to help students estimate college costs, many times families tend to only see the “sticker price” of the school.

According to David Leonhardt’s New York Times blog post, “Getting a Clearer Picture of College Costs,” many students have a better chance affording top tier colleges than realized due to false assumptions of college costs.

From the article:

“For high-achieving, low-income students, some of the cheapest places to attend college are the ones with the highest list prices. Thanks to their endowments, these elite colleges often award large scholarships to poor and even many middle-class students. For example, despite Harvard’s published annual cost of about $60,000, parents of Harvard students making less than $65,000 are expected to make no contribution; parents making $65,000 to $150,000 typically pay no more than 10 percent of their income.

But elite colleges have not been especially effective about spreading the word about the real cost of enrollment. Many low-income families imagine Harvard – or Pomona, Haverford, Wellesley and dozens of other colleges – to be beyond their financial reach. A recent study found that most low-income students with the academic record to be admitted to such colleges never even apply.”

In the article, Leanhardt reports that Wellesley College has created a new calculator that may be better at estimating college costs than others currently in market. The calculator is also easier to use than most other net price calculators, providing college cost information without scaring families away by filling out a lengthy form requesting too much personal information.

Though the calculator was created for Wellesley, Leonhardt believes “financial-aid policies are similar enough across elite colleges that the calculator will offer a rough estimate of how much families would pay to attend any one of dozens of such colleges.”

To read Leonhardt’s article, click here.

If you are interested in learning more about using net price calculators to estimate the cost of college, click here.



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