If you are in high school, you are probably already thinking about college. And, if you are thinking about college, you should become familiar with the Net Price Calculator. This calculator, available on most college's website, will show you your true cost of attending college – your net price.
What is Net Price?
If you use the Net Price Calculator, it will help you determine the cost to attend a particular college before you apply. Most colleges publish a sticker price, but most students pay a different amount.
Your Net Price is the college's full cost of attendance (tuition, room and board, books and fees) minus any grants or scholarships you might be eligible to receive. The net price is only an estimate and not a guarantee of financial aid.
However, most students will receive some form of financial aid. Here is an example of how net price works. The full Cost of Attendance at Columbia University for the 2018/19 school year is $77,411. A student eligible for the average grants and scholarships awarded at Columbia of $56,829 would have a Net Price of $20,582 -- a much more affordable amount.
Where can I find a Net Price Calculator?
You can find a Net Price calculator on the website of every college that participates in the Title IV federal student aid programs.
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Before you get started, you will need to gather up the following information: your family's tax returns, W2 (pay stub), bank account and investment statements.
3 Ways to Access a College’s Net Price Calculator
Below are three (3) different ways to access a college's Net Price Calculator. The first option (#1) allows you to access Net Price Calculators at every college in the US; the second option (#2 -- the College Board's calculator) is limited to roughly 200 colleges that subscribe to their calculator; and the third option (#3) gives you access to the Net Price Calculator for Texas public colleges.
1. US Department of Education’s Net Price Center
This Net Price Calculator Center gives you access to every college's calculator. Go to the Department of Education's Net Price Center, type in the name of the college then press enter. You will be taken to that specific college's Net Price Calculator.
Keep in mind, some calculators will have better features (for e.g., comparison tool) than others. Also, some ask more questions than others and, as a result, produce better results.
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2. The College Board’s Net Price Calculator
The College Board offers a Net Price Calculator used by the 200 colleges, as of May 2019.
This calculator offers the advantage of saving the information you enter (your family's income, assets, and, in some cases, the student's GPA, class rank and test scores) or future use. The information saved can be used to access your net price for any of the other 200 colleges subscribing to the College Board's calculator.
To get started:
- Select a college from the the College Board’s Net Price Calculator subscriber list. You will be taken to that college’s calculator where you will have the option to sign into your College Board account or create an account.
2. You can opt to create an account to save the information you enter.
Answering all of the questions on the calculator should take no more than 15-20 minutes.
To answer the questions about your family's financial circumstances, you may need to gather information from your family's tax returns or W2 (pay stub).
At the end, the calculator will spit out an estimated net price which will include any grant or scholarships you are likely to receive if you are accepted to that college.
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3. Net Price Calculator for Texas Public Colleges
This calculator is ONLY good for 2-year and 4-year public colleges in Texas. Each Texas public college can be found on the state's net price calculator.
To get started:
- Visit the College For All Texans website.
- Read and agree to the disclaimer before moving on to answer the questions.
- Select up to three colleges to compare at the same time.
Be aware that this calculator can produce wide net price ranges. Instead of a single net price amount, you will get a range that could be as much as $20,000 apart.
How to Find the Average Net Price For Each College
Families can also review the average net price for each college by visiting the College Navigator sponsored by the Department of Education.
- To find the average net price, enter the name of the college you would like to research.
- Then go to the tab that reads “Net Price” to find the average net price students have paid at that college.
- You will also be able to see the "average net price" by income.
Finding your net price is an important first step in helping you get an estimate of your college costs after subtracting any scholarships or grants you might be eligible to receive. And, it also helps you determine if you will need to take out loans to fund your education.
In conclusion, the only way to really know your actual financial aid award is to submit the FAFSA. Many private colleges require the CSS/Financial Aid Profile in addition to the FAFSA.
For DACA and undocumented students who are Texas Residents: Federal financial aid is reserved for US citizens and eligible residents, therefore the net price calculators might not accurately reflect the funds you are eligible to receive. However, if you are considered a Texas resident, you can complete the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) for an opportunity to receive Texas state grants. In some cases, you may also be eligible for institutional funds. For more information, please consult the Financial Aid Office at the colleges you are interested in attending.