How to Save on College Costs With the New ‘Net Price Calculator’

The following post comes from guest blogger Luis Trujillo of website My Money For College.

If you’re a college student like me, you study college costs alongside your major. It bored me to death the first time I started doing college comparisons, because I had to go through a whole list of things I had to add up over and over again as I wrote down each of my prospective college choices along with their total cost of attendance.

But I have some great news: The troublesome process of calculating your costs for every college on your list has ended because of a piece of legislation called the Higher Education Act of 2008. That act required all colleges and universities to include a “net price calculator” on their websites by October 2011.

That simple move has a load of benefits…

  1. It will help you conduct your college comparisons faster and easier because it will quickly show you the estimated cost of attendance. I can tell you from experience that comparing colleges is both time-consuming and tiring. You’ll avoid a bunch of the frustration I had to deal with (lucky you).
  2. The calculator will be college-specific, meaning that each college is allowed to use its own method for determining your need. This is really helpful when it comes to estimating the median financial aid you can expect to receive in accordance with your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution, which is the amount of money your family is expected to contribute to your college education and can range from $0 to $99,999.
  3. The calculator will also help you determine if you’re dependent (meaning you depend on your parents) or independent to better estimate your EFC.

This great new tool will be mandatory and vary from college to college. It might have additional features that individual colleges choose to add, but for the most part, you should expect to see the Net Price Calculator on every institution’s website.

If you want more information regarding money for college visit my website and sign up for a free copy of “Secrets to Finding Local Scholarships.”

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  • Anonymous

    I work in the financial aid field and the net price calculators can do a lot more harm than good, because on the FAFSA almost every questions is a calculation. For a school to be correct it would have to ask just as many questions as on the FAFSA if not more.  More of your time for an estimate (that mostly likely will be wrong) instead of focusing on other items that are important in the quest of finding the right school. Also, each school is allowed to put different information into the calculator, that includes only using a semester billing, the lowest meal and rooming plans ect .  

    The best thing for parents and students is sit down at the computer and fill out the FAFSA together, so both of you understand what goes into EFC (Expected Family Contribution).   FAFSA allows a student to send the information to multiple schools and you can do this multiple of times. 
    Second talk to the school, whether its an admission counselor or a financial aid counselor, once you receive a financial package and ask questions!  If you do not ask no one can help.  There is no questions that is “too stupid”.  I would rather students/parents ask than come bill time and they do not know how they are going to pay.  And believe me it is not fun for either parties when that happens.

    So long story short, take the time (students) and apply to anywhere and everywhere your want, fill out the FAFSA with your parents, submit to all the school you want, and ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions.  

    • Luis Trujillo

      What’s more important about the Net Price Calculator is that it at least gives a rough measure. In no way is it the end of your question asking because it’s only the beginning. It just helps make the starting point of finding out which college financial aid package could possible benefit the most. So, of course I agree students need to ask a lot of questions. That’s part of the reason I’m in college debt free and it’s great to know I’ll be out of college owing $0 dollars so I know some stuff about this field as well. I’m sorry if you read it wrong or somehow interpreted this wrong but it’s completely understandable.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, but you have to remember that the figures that all higher education institutions put into the net calculator are from either the school year 2008-2009 or 2009-2010, which is when there was more grants and scholarships available at higher levels as well. So a rough figure if you could go back in time.
        I think two things will come of this students will receive an unrealistic idea of aid he or she would be receiving or the student will think that he or she cannot afford college. It is great that you are debt free and I wish more of my students were like that, but the truth is not everyone is willing to ask questions and get the same results, instead turn to devices on the web and think it will tell them the truth. 

    • Anonymous

      I guess we can both agree that asking questions is the single most important thing. Good discussion.