Archive for October 28th, 2011

October 28, 2011

Net Price Calculator – a helpful first step in the college search

by Grace

Starting October 29, all colleges are required to provide a Net Price Calculator (NPC) showing the ‘net price’ (defined as tuition, fees and indirect expenses minus grant and scholarship aid) for individual students based on their personal status.   For more details you can go here.

I created three fictional student profiles and ran them through the calculations of a dozen colleges.  In all three cases the student was a top scholar with high test scores who resides in New York State.  The only difference between the three profiles was the family’s financial situation.  The earned income for the three different families were $50,000 (low), $80,000 (medium), and $150,000 (high).  Here are the net Cost of Attendance (COA) results.  [UPDATE:  Harvard figures have been updated to correct a mistake.]

Some initial observations:

  • A low- to middle-income student enjoys a tremendous bargain at many top-ten schools, if he is admitted.  With acceptance rates in the single digits for some of these schools, that’s a big “IF”.
  • At most schools ranked below top ten, a low-income student will pay at least $20,000 a year to attend.  (Note that all these were out-of-state schools for our fictional student.  I plan to run in-state examples later.)
  • Quick comparisons can be made based on NPC results.  For example, with similar COA figures, it appears that UVA offers more need-based aid for low-income students than Denison does.  The detailed report generated as part of the NPC confirms this, indicating the next step might be a request for more detailed information from the college admissions staff.
  • Merit scholarships may be the biggest unknown factor.  I would be careful about relying on NPC figures for this, even for schools that explicitly state that they include merit in their calculations.  Further research will usually be required.

Bottom line:  Families should run NPC reports for all schools on a student’s initial list as a useful first step in comparing affordability among the various options.

* CHART EXPLANATION:
….•  Rank:  USNWR ranking; NR = not ranked nationally
….•  COA:  Cost of Attendance
….•  Net COA:  Income Categories are Low = $50,000; Med = $80,000, High = $150,000
….•  Merit Aid:
……….1 – NPC does not consider merit aid.
……….2 – NPC considers at least some merit aid.
……….3 – Unclear if merit aid is considered.
……….4 – School does not offer merit aid.

** This NPC non-resident COA is at odds with the information on the college website.  According to the UNM website, it appears the NPC COA should be increased by approximately $13,000 a year.  Since it’s unknown how that change would affect the net price, I would consider all these UNM numbers to be unreliable.

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