Archive for the ‘Institute for College Access & Success’ Category

Early Look at College Net Price Calculators Finds Mixed Results

April 13, 2011 Comments off

Early Look at College Net Price Calculators Finds Mixed Results (PDF)
Source: Institute for College Access & Success

By the end of October, U.S. colleges must meet a federal requirement to create online “net price calculators.” These calculators are intended to help prospective students and their families gauge college affordability, providing early individualized estimates of what particular colleges will cost them after grants and scholarships.

The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) took an early look at how colleges are approaching this requirement and found mixed results for how easy the calculators were to find, use, and understand. The findings are detailed in a new report, Adding It All Up: An Early Look at Net Price Calculators, which includes examples of actual calculators and their strengths and limitations.

TICAS examined calculators posted by more than a dozen colleges before February of this year. The most user-friendly calculators were placed prominently on colleges’ websites, asked questions that most people could answer quickly and easily, and clearly conveyed and emphasized the estimated “net price” — defined by Congress as the full cost of attendance minus grants and scholarships. However, other calculators were difficult to locate, required detailed information from users’ financial records, and presented confusing results that could make a college look deceptively affordable. Several calculators subtracted presumed student loans and earnings from the net price to get to a much lower figure, sometimes as low as zero, and some visually emphasized that number instead.

The analysis also raised questions about the privacy and security of the information these calculators are allowed to collect from students and their families. Few of the calculators explained how users’ information would be protected or whether it would be shared.

+ Full Report (PDF)


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