Admit it: Rising costs of tuition, student loan debt that surpasses credit card debt and growing competition for merit aid is at the forefront for families in the college admissions process. Often, the financial aid process intimidates and frustrates families as they find themselves overwhelmed with numerous forms and emerged in financial jargon.
The mythology of financial aid usurps the reality with families resigning, “I’m not even going to apply.” In actuality, many schools go to great efforts to make college affordable. The University of the South has pledged to reduce tuition costs while Mount Holyoke has pledge to freeze tuition for 2012 -2013. Princeton University awarded an average grant of $26,000 to families earning between $160,000 and $180,000. The Institute for College Access and Success released a recent study stating that “59 percent of students ruled out college on the basis of sticker price without considering financial aid support.” The report also stated that due to such misinformation regarding financial aid possibilities, students often engage in “under-matching” academic fit. Simply, students are selecting less competitive and less prestigious college.
To better understand the financial opportunities of an undergraduate education, the Higher Education Opportunity Act now requires colleges that provide federal aid to host a Net Price Calculator on each school’s website. Net Price Calculators allow families to calculate the cost of attendance based on their individual financial circumstances. Crisp Consulting + Coaching offers the strategies for using and understanding the Net Price Calculator.
Net Access. The Net Price Calculators were created to give families a better understanding of the financial aid process and opportunities for financial aid from individual schools. With many schools staking annual tuition costs upwards of $50,000, many students abandon hopes of admission due to sticker shock. As stated by The College Board, “It (The New Price Calculator) can help you widen your college choices beyond those institutions that you think you can afford. It is possible that your net cost will be lower at a college with a high sticker price or higher at a college with a lower sticker price. You may find that some colleges you thought were financially out of your reach may be very affordable.”
Net Information. Net Price Calculators can be found in many places: The Federal Template; Individual college website such as Yale University; and at The College Board. With any Net Price Calculator, you will need a copy of your family’s current tax return, W-2 forms and twenty free minutes. As with any documentation during the college admission process, save and print your results.
Net worth. The Net Price Calculator estimates your financial aid based on the requested financial data. This process will then subtract the costs of tuition and room and board to deliver an estimated net price. This price is the amount a student will need to pay or borrow to enroll at the school. Although the Net Price Calculators make the financial aid process more transparent, the results produced are estimates and not guarantees of financial aid. Families still need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, and the CSS Profile.
Financial fit is a critical element in applying to college. Understanding your responsibility in financing a college education is essential in an era where student loan debt is escalating. The Net Price Calculators are valuable tools for families to make informed financial decisions.
Brian D. Crisp is an international educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families to optimize and realize their unique educational fit for admissions success. As a former professor and administrator, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.