The tuition and fees that schools publish online are often far more than what families end up paying. The problem is that the true cost of attendance – after subtracting federal, state and school grants – isn’t always clear until students receive their financial aid award letters.
But starting Oct. 29, colleges will be required to provide “net price calculators” on their websites. These will give families a better sense, early on, of what their actual costs would be for that particular year. This is expected to help students get a more accurate assessment of the range of schools that are within their reach.
So, go ahead and crank your data through some NPCs, get some idea of what your family may be expected to pay, but don’t let that be the last thing you do. No calculator is going to take the place of a conversation with someone in the college’s financial aid office who can advise you about changing family circumstances, about how studying abroad will impact the aid award or a host of other possibilities. People — students and their families and the financial aid staffs at the institutions — are still the biggest part of this equation.