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Net Price Calculators ease the pain of college costs
Because college costs can vary significantly from school to school, Terry Finefrock, senior associate director of financial aid for Baldwin-Wallace University, says Net Price Calculators (NPC) are one way for students understand the actual price to attend, not just the costs that are charged.
"You can't compare tuitions and think you’re comparing costs," she says. "The pivotal question is not what does a school cost, but what will the school cost ME. Tuition doesn’t take into consideration other factors such as what schools include in their costs and what costs are covered in a financial aid award package."
Using the NPC allows families to better plan their financials.
"It can and should be used to start the conversation with the admissions and financial aid offices," Finefrock says. “And for families unfamiliar with the college search process, it provides a jumping-in point related to understanding affordability."
NPC does not take into account possible scholarships and loans available to a student. However, because each college and university is federally mandated to provide a good estimate of what tuition would be for a full-time undergraduate freshman, families can trust the calculators as an accurate expectation for what they would have to pay.
"It can help students understand that the school that may cost the most could be the school that is the most affordable," Finefrock says. "Or, a school with the largest scholarship award is not always the school that would cost the lease. And, a private school can often be as affordable, if not more, than a public school because of the financial assistance."
She suggests that families use the NPC to make sure all their options are considered.
"[It's] part of the process of figuring out what schools are right for the student by not eliminating schools too early in the process based solely on costs," she says