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Net Price Calculators Help Determine College Costs

If you haven’t already, you should begin to notice something called a net price calculator (NPC) located on the institutional websites of colleges you’re researching. The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) requires that institutions participating in Title IV federal student aid programs to include a Net Price Calculator on their websites by October 29, 2011. The overall goal of this endeavor is to make it easier for students and families to estimate the costs associated with going to college.

How NPCs Work

NPCs work like this: You go to the school’s website and answer a series of questions about your financial situation (see the detailed list below). The NPC compares your answers against historical FAFSA data and calculates a median expected family contribution (EFC) based on your financial details From there, the NPC determines how much grant and scholarship aid the university typically provides to applicants in that EFC range.

The resulting “net price” is the difference between the total cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, etc.) and the amount of aid awarded by the institution. In other words, the “net price” is the amount that you and your family will have to cover for one year of education; you can do this by paying in cash, taking out loans, or earning other scholarships or grants.

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