How Parents Can Calculate Net Costs Of College Including Tuition Discounts

December 21st, 2011

 

Andrew P. Kelly, American Enterprise Institute

 

Key Points

Six in ten families rule out some colleges because of sticker price, yet many do not know that the “net price” is typically far lower. Stanford’s sticker price for tuition, living expenses, and books is $55,918, while Cal State Long Beach’s is $20,675. But for some low-income students, aid discounts those prices to $4,496 and $3,593 respectively.
To help parents and students make informed choices, the federal government now requires “net price calculators” on college websites. That is a start, but proactively teaching parents–especially those with lower incomes–to think in terms of net price is critical.
An AEI survey found that a majority of parents do recognize a distinction between sticker price and net price after aid when asked to think of the cost for a low-income student. Low-income parents tend to overestimate the net price for their child.

 

Three corrective measures: (1) generate net prices for the schools students list on financial aid forms; (2) enlist guidance counselors to marshal relevant data; and (3) encourage web developers to create online tools that help to compare net prices across institutions.

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