# Net Price Calculators

## Do You Know What Net Price Is?

Yesterday I was talking with the parent of one of my students and the conversation was concerning college costs. I had asked him where he and the student’s mother would like to be when it came time to paying for college. Essentially I needed to know how much they were capable of paying so that we could look at the student’s college list in a more informed way.

One thing I firmly believe is that you have to know what you can afford up front.

There’s no sense in investing your time and effort, not to mention your heart, in a college search which is absent of the implications of cost.

Having recently mentioned Marist as an option the student should consider, the dad said that their costs for tuition, room and board (roughly \$44,000) was getting towards the higher end of their threshold.

So while this family’s ability to pay will create more options for them than a family who’s ability to pay is much less, the conversation reminded me that so many families haven’t been informed about net price.

So what is net price? It’s the cost a family will pay for one year of college after grant and scholarship aid has been awarded. This cost varies from person to person and you can learn more about why this is by reading a post I wrote about net price last year:

How Much Is That College In The Window?

Essentially, the more competitive a student is when their grades and test scores are compared against the average grades and test scores for students who the college typically admits, the more likely it is that the student will receive a significant amount of aid which will then lower their net price.

With this idea in mind, a competitive student who applies to Marist and is awarded their Presidential Scholarship of \$12,000 lowers their net price to roughly \$32,000 thus making an expensive school more affordable.

One way you can start looking at a rough estimate of your net cost at a school is to use their net price calculator. Colleges are required to include one on their website, though some are easier to find than others. These calculators will ask you to enter some personal information and will then compute an estimated net price.

Not all calculators are created equal so be sure to pay close attention to the details of what the college estimates you will receive when you get your net price results.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation. If you want to hear more about any of the schools on my travels, I’d be happy to talk to you about any of them as well.

## Why Some Financial Aid Offers Will Underwhelm

Last week I talked about three things you need to know about the costs of college: your EFC, how admissible your son or daughter is and merit awards. If you missed the post, here it is:

What You Need To Know About The Costs Of College

Today I want to take that conversation a step further and give you an example of why it is so important for a student to know just how desirable he or she is.

When the conversation rolls around to how much aid a college is going to award, sometimes the more desirable a student is plays a significant role. According to NACAC’s 2012 State of College Admission report only 32% of publics and 18% of privates were able to meet 100% of each student’s demonstrated need.  The remaining colleges have to decide how to allocate their money and not everyone gets the same amount. If they did, every college would meet 100% of everyone’s need.

And we all know that doesn’t happen.

So what dos end up happening is that colleges have to choose which students get the most aid. To put it simply, the more desirable the student, the more aid they will be awarded. So what makes an applicant more desirable? It depends on the college and while you can’t know everything they are looking for in a given year, there are at least two things any applicant can easily figure out.

GPA and test scores.

Knowing what kind of grades and test scores you will need for admission is something you should seek out about every school you are interested in. You can find this information rather easily on the College Board’s Big Future website. As I talked about in a post I wrote in September called, College List Tip: What Are Your Chances, you will find a range of test scores, GPA’s and even class ranks. This is valuable information for any applicant to look at and understand. These figures are provided by the colleges themselves. They are real numbers and they will show you just who the college thinks is desirable and, therefore, who will receive the more generous aid awards.  Applicants should read them and understand them as they search for colleges.

There’s a big difference between a college A where SAT scores for Math and Critical Reading of 500 fall in the top 25th percentile and college B where those same scores fall in the lowest 25th percentile.

If an applicant has fallen in love with college B and is expecting a lot of aid, they are very likely going to be disappointed.

Have something to say? Use the comment box below or email me at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. If you think this makes a lot of sense, consider sharing it with someone you know.

## What You Need To Know About The Costs Of College

As you’re building your college list, there’s no limit to the things you will consider. Is your major a program at which the school is particularly strong? Is it a cool college town? Big time football on Saturdays? Is the campus safe? Is it clean?

Depending on your VIPS, what you are considering is specific to you.

But there is one aspect that you all think about.

And that’s cost.

Let’s be honest here, there’s nothing to like about college costs. They have risen at astronomical levels over the last few decades to the point where students are graduating, on average, with over \$26,000 in debt.

And that’s an average.

Back in the late fall, I wrote a post about the difference between a college’s sticker price and the real price that families pay. I then followed it up with a post about understanding your EFC. If you haven’t read them already and don’t know what EFC is, take a minute and check them out and then come on back.

There’s a lot of things to cover in the college search, but if you don’t understand the costs of college and how to reduce them, you could be in for a big time let down next year when your financial aid award shows up. So, outside of figuring out your EFC, here are a few things you can do to help yourself:

1. Don’t pay attention to sticker price:

Look for net price and, specifically, the net price for families in your income bracket. If your family’s income is over \$100,000 you don’t want to be looking at net price for families whose income is only \$50,000.

2. Figure out just how admissible you are:

Based on grades and test scores, look at who the college admits. Then take a good, hard look at yours. Are they similar? Sort of? Not close? The easier it is for a college to admit you, the better (read BIGGER) your award will be.

3. Check out merit awards:

Some colleges publish the amounts and qualifications of their merit awards (free money) on online and the information is easy to find and understand. Your GPA and SAT score combination earn you X amount of dollars. Others, not so much. Look it up and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, call the admissions office.

I already spend a lot of time on cost issues with the families I work with and, moving forward, I will be dedicating more of my blog to these same issues as well. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Have something to say? Use the comment box below or email me at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. If you think this makes a lot of sense, consider sharing it with someone you know.

## Why You Should Know Your EFC

Last week I wrote a post about understanding the difference between net price and sticker price. Today, I wanted to carry the financial torch a bit further by talking about EFC.

EFC? What’s that you say? Another acronym?

Yup. The world of college admissions and financial aid is full of them.

EFC stands for expected family contribution. It is the amount of money you will be expected to contribute towards one year of your college costs. While it won’t paint the entire picture for you, it will serve as a starting point before you venture into how generous a school is with their aid. You won’t know your official EFC until after you’ve completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and, in my opinion, this is too late. You can’t fill out the FAFSA until after January 1st of the student’s senior year when decisions on where you are applying have already been made.

Rather, you should know your EFC before you start getting too deep into looking at colleges.

Parents of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, I’m talking to you.

For example, let’s say your EFC is \$25,000. If you are looking at a college where the cost of attendance is \$55,000 you can immediately see that you will be hoping to get \$30,000 in aid. Conversely, if the college’s cost of attendance is \$30,000, you shouldn’t be expecting much of anything outside of the basic student loan.

In the case of the former, \$30,000 is a big difference to make up. The next step is to understand just how generous a school is and if they are going to help you out. Typically, the biggest factor in whether or not a college is going to offer you a financial aid package that meets your need is how competitive you are as an applicant.

Do yourself a favor and obtain your estimated EFC now. Write it down, understand it and use it when you are researching schools and want to know what a school is going to cost you.

If you have questions or would like some help figuring out how to reduce the cost of college, use the comment box below or email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. I would love to hear from you!

## How Much Is That College In The Window?

The other day I was working with a student who ended up learning a lot about the difference between sticker price and net price. The student in question was interested in architecture but assumed that schools who offer the program would cost him too much.  In fact, he was prepared to give up on the idea of architecture and pick a different major altogether so that he could attend a local state school here in Connecticut just to save money.

While this is not meant to be a knock on our state schools (I’m a product of two of them), this is a knock on a system that had so far prevented this young man from truly understanding his options.

I proceeded to pull up the College Board website so that I could show him the difference between sticker price and net price. Since he wanted to stay in the Northeast, we narrowed his search down to several schools in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region. For the purpose of this blog, I randomly selected three schools from the list we generated: Lehigh University, Temple University, and Philadelphia University.

Going by the assumptions the student was making about sticker price, one year of college would cost him \$55,515 at Lehigh, \$38,935 at Temple and \$46,282 at Philadelphia. Each one of them a prohibitive cost. But then I showed him the Paying tab on the College Board website and how he needed to look beyond the sticker price of each institution. Upon doing so, I was able to show him that Lehigh’s average first year financial aid package is \$34,773 making their net price \$20,742. Temple’s average package was \$15,373 bringing the net price in at \$23,562. Philadelphia University gives freshmen \$28,220 to bring the true price down to \$18,062.

All of a sudden, not so prohibitive.

Seeing as how this student’s grades and SAT scores fell within the top 25% of admitted students for each school, it’s a safe bet to say he’s probably going to receive the average package from each school. In fact, he may receive financial aid packages that are better than the average.

Another way to figure out what a school is going to cost you is to use a net price calculator. Colleges are now required to include one on their website, though some are easier to find than others. These calculators will ask you to enter some personal information and will then compute an estimated net price. Not all calculators are created equal so be sure to pay close attention to the breakdown of loans, grants and merit money when you get your net price results.

At the end of the day, as this student learned, it pays to do your homework.

If you have questions about net price or would like some help figuring out how to reduce the cost of college, use the comment box below or email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com. I would love to hear from you!