College Net Price Calculator Help
Use the College Net Price Calculator to uncover your REAL cost to attend a college — the amount you can expect to pay out-of-pocket. Your results are personalized based on your financial situation and college choices.
In addition to the College Net Price Calculator home page, your Net Price Calculator results are available throughout CollegeData, anywhere you view information about colleges and universities: in your College Match results, in each school's College Profile, and in your Data Locker with your saved colleges.
Enter the name of the college you want to calculate net price for. As you type, a drop down list of matching colleges will display.
- If the college you want is on the list, select it. This will automatically submit the Net Price Calculator form.
- If the college you want isn't on the list, hit the Enter or Return key on your keyboard or click the "Calculate" button to see a list of all colleges that match the text you entered. Select the correct college name from this list to complete your net price calculation.
If you aren't sure of the exact name, enter key word(s) in the name. For example, if you enter "San Diego" your results will include San Diego Christian College, San Diego State University, University of San Diego, and University of California, San Diego. If you enter part of the name, your choices will include all colleges that contain that text. You can also enter well-known abbreviations, such as UCLA or SUNY.
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A college's sticker price is the amount a student who receives no financial aid will pay to attend. The sticker price is the college's official annual cost of attendance, which includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, local transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses. Your net price to attend a college is the amount you can expect to pay out-of-pocket AFTER your financial aid is deducted.
To estimate net price, the CollegeData Net Price Calculator looks at the college's cost of attendance, your expected family contribution (EFC), and the amount and composition of recent financial aid awards at the college. Your net price includes your EFC, any financial need that college is not likely to cover, plus any financial aid awarded in the form of loans or work-study employment — money which ultimately comes out of your pocket.
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We need the amount of your EFC to calculate your net price. Your EFC is the amount colleges expect your family to contribute toward your college costs. It's based on a federal formula, and colleges use it to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for. You may calculate your EFC using the CollegeData EFC Calculator or, if you already know your EFC, you may enter it manually. The Net Price Calculator will automatically prompt you to provide your EFC, if necessary.
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Net price is the key to understanding what college will really cost, particularly if you are applying for financial aid. Two colleges may have vastly different sticker prices, but your net price to attend both may be similar. In fact, it's possible that your net price will be LOWER at the college with a higher sticker price!
Here's an example: The annual cost of attendance for College A, a private institution, is $42,050. The annual cost of attendance for College B, a public institution, is $21,235. The family's EFC is $21,810 (which is possible for a family of four with modest assets, an annual income as high as $100,000, and one student in college). On the surface, College A costs about twice as much to attend as College B. From this, the family might conclude that College A is out of the question because of the high cost. Now compare the net price for both colleges. The net price to attend College B is the same as the sticker price, $21,235, since the EFC exceeds the cost of attendance. The net price to attend College A is $24,110 (the EFC of $21,810 plus $2,300 for financial aid awarded as a loan). College A is much more affordable than the family initially thought — only $2,875 more than College B. For a family with a smaller EFC, the net price for College A could turn out to be lower than for College B.
Here's another example to illustrate a subtle, but important, aspect of net price: the composition of the financial aid package. In this example, College A and B have similar sticker prices of about $40,000. Both colleges offer a generous financial aid package totaling $19,500. On the surface, a family might conclude that there is no significant difference in the cost to attend. Now compare the net price for both colleges. It turns out that the net price to attend College B is $3,500 higher than the net price to attend College A. College A's financial aid package includes a $2,600 loan and a $16,900 grant. College B's financial aid package includes a $2,600 loan, a $13,400 grant, and a $3,500 work-study award. Work-study awards are wages earned from working. College B is offering the student the opportunity to receive this award, but the money ultimately comes out of the student's pocket, and is included in the net price.
These are just a couple of examples illustrating the importance of understanding net price. Aside from the EFC and the composition of the financial aid package, other factors that can influence net price include the percent of financial need that the college covers, the student's year of study, and any non-need-based awards the student receives (such as a scholarship from a community organization or a merit award from the college itself). Some colleges cover 100 percent of students' financial need; some cover less. At some colleges, the net price for freshmen may differ greatly from the net price for other undergraduates because financial aid is packaged differently depending upon the class level. Colleges typically reduce a student's financial aid award if the student receives scholarships, but the manner in which the award is modified varies from college to college. Some colleges reduce the amount of grant by the scholarship amount, other colleges reduce the amount of loan/work-study, and still others reduce both grants and loans/work-study.
The bottom line is that you can't compare college costs until you look below the surface at net price. It's the key to understanding what college will really cost.
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The Net Price Calculator estimates your net price to attend a particular college based on financial information you provide (your EFC) and statistics about costs and financial aid reported by the college. Your Net Price Calculator results tell you how much financial aid you may get, including the amount that is likely to be loans and work-study. You can compare the net price for freshmen and all undergraduates and view additional information about costs and financial aid at the college, including average financial aid awards, proportion of students receiving loans and work-study, the number of students who take out loans, and the average amount of loan debt at graduation.
Use your net price results as a guideline only. The Net Price Calculator cannot determine your actual cost to attend a particular college. College financial aid decisions involve a variety of factors and consider individual circumstances in a manner that cannot be built into a calculator. The Net Price Calculator considers need-based financial aid only; it does not include scholarships or other non-need-based aid you might receive, which could significantly reduce your net price. The Net Price Calculator uses your EFC based on the federal methodology and many colleges use an EFC based on a slightly different formula, called the institutional methodology, to determine your eligibility for certain types of aid. Also, keep in mind that the composition of a college's financial aid packages may vary according to students' residency status (if the college is a public institution). The Net Price Calculator assumes students are considered residents for purposes of tuition. Net price will be higher for students who are not residents.
The Net Price Calculator IS based on real data, and should give you a general idea of how much need-based financial aid you are eligible for, how much of it you can expect in the form of loans and work-study, and what your overall out-of-pocket costs will be. However, don't assume that you will receive a particular amount or type of financial aid on the basis of your Net Price Calculator results. Discuss your individual circumstances with your counselor, family financial advisor, and financial aid representatives at the colleges you are considering.
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