Starting today, all colleges and universities receiving federal aid must post a net-price calculator on their web sites. Prospective students can plug in family income and other details, such as how many kids in college, to estimate the cost of tuition, books and living expenses minus grants.
The sticker price of college is rising quickly, while the net price is rising slowly, writes Daniel deVise in the Washington Post.
The full price of tuition, fees and living expenses averaged $38,590 at private colleges in the 2011-12 academic year, according to a new report from the College Board. The amount students actually paid, counting scholarships and grants, averaged $23,060. Student aid lowered the average cost of public colleges from $17,130 to $11,380.
In short, college is more affordable than many people think. That’s especially true for students from moderate-income families, who may not know how much aid they’re likely to get.
I tried the net price calculator for Foothill College, my nearby community colleges. I put in my information, minus my husband’s income. The calculator predicted I’d qualify for $893 in grants and owe $894 in tuition, plus another $1,728 for textbooks. Of course, it also estimated my living and personal expenses, but I don’t consider that a college cost. It’s not like I’d move into a dorm: I’d be paying all that whether I was taking college classes or not.
If I were a 20-year-old living at home in a family of three earning $40,000 to $49,999, I’d qualify for $1,349 in grants, the calculator predicts. As a single mother of two earning $30,000 to $39,999, I’d get $6,406 in grants but still pay only $894 for tuition plus $1,728 for books and supplies. Assuming I didn’t have to pay more for child care or transportation — perhaps I’d take online classes — I’d make a profit.