net price calculatorAs university costs are growing each year, applying for and receiving the right financial aid is a reality more and more students are facing. However, it can be tricky to calculate just how much a year (or four) will cost at your prospective school. Under the Higher Education opportunity Act of 2008, all post-secondary institutions are required to provide a Net Price Calculator on their websites. (Just over 200 choose to use the College Board’s Net Price Calculator.) This Net Price Calculator is a simple tool that allows prospective students and their families to estimate the cost of attendance based on that student’s individual circumstances.

The calculator works based on two components: the institutional data maintenance application, and the user application. Each school provides the price of attendance and median amounts of scholarships and grants awarded to, and accepted by, previous undergraduate students based on Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) ranges.

Prospective students and parents then use the Net Price Calculator to answer several questions that determine the students’ dependency status, their estimated cost of attendance, and an approximate EFC. The calculator references the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) database populated with application information so a median EFC can be identified. The EFC is then matched with the median scholarship and grant aid entered by the institution for that range. The resulting estimated net price is found by subtracting the estimated total grant money from the estimated total price of attendance.

While the ultimate goal is to provide an accurate and welcoming tool to help students and their families know what to expect when it comes to paying for their education, templates can vary in their design, technicality, and may require different information. Institutions are required to update the information each year, and make sure that total costs and financial aid information are from corresponding years. Students who chose to use the calculator remain completely anonymous to the school.