Net Price Calculators: Financial Lit or Decreased Aspiration?

Last Friday marked the deadline for colleges and universities to have their Net Price Calculators live in accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.  The template must include the following, at a minimum:

  • Data elements to approximate the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), such as income, number in family, and dependency status or factors that estimate dependency status
  • Estimated total price of attendance;
  • Estimated tuition and fees;
  • Estimated room and board;
  • Estimated books and supplies;
  • Estimated other expenses (personal expenses, transportation, etc.);
  • Estimated total grant aid;
  • Estimated net price;
  • Percent of the cohort (full-time, first-time students) that received grant aid; and
  • Caveats and disclaimers, as indicated in the HEOA.
What this does not take into account, as many who work in higher ed know, is extenuating circumstances, changes in status, accuracy of information and academic standing to say the least.


With the economic downturn and schools fighting for the dwindling college going – and college affording – population, the NPC requirement may actually hinder students from applying to schools that they could afford and aspire to attend. Aspiration has repeatedly been a determining factor in college completion (see previous post and research).


Further, how long until we see resources that price total cost of attendance across several schools? Will this take into account academic standing, reputation of the school, etc?
What if we created tools that let you know the job outlook for your intended profession/major in the city you anticipate working? If you received a BA in English in Boston, what would the job outlook be for you? Then discuss cost of attendance, fit and financial requirements.


Would this be a better way to determine if the cost of attendance was ‘worth it’?



2 thoughts on “Net Price Calculators: Financial Lit or Decreased Aspiration?

    1. Weird. It looks like that was how to calculate your bill rather than an estimate of what you can expect to pay. From what I can see, totally non-compliant. Yikes!

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