How Much Will College Cost You? Use a College Cost Calculator!

college cost calculatorBy Mary Fallon from StudentAid.com, Special to StudentAdvisor.com

One of the biggest mysteries about college is “how much will it cost me?” Some students who want to go to college don’t even apply because the sticker price posted on a college’s websites scares them off. But sticker price is not the price most students pay. In the past, students have had to wait until getting admitted before finding out how much they’d receive to help pay for their education.

A new federal law is aimed at helping you know how much aid to expect before applying. Schools—from career colleges to major research universities—that offer aid must post a college cost calculator on their websites by October 2011.

Net price calculators solve the “How much will it cost me?” mystery. They will show you a personalized estimate of the aid a specific school expects to offer you. All you’ll need to do is answer a few questions about your family’s size and income to get your estimates.

A net price calculator shows a “sticker price”—what colleges call the price (or cost) of attendance, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, travel and other expenses. Calculators estimate your grant aid—the free money given for merit or need. Subtract grant aid from price of attendance for your net price. But net price isn’t your true cost of college.

The final step is to subtract any work-study and loan amounts you’re offered. Only then will you know how much you must pay out of savings for college. The most dangerous part of college planning is not knowing your net price and out-of-pocket costs before applying. Net price calculators will help you find colleges you can afford without taking on lots of debt.

What to do if a school hasn’t added a net cost calculator yet?

If the college you’re interested in does not currently have a college cost calculator, there are other ways to determine your net cost. StudentAid.com’s College Cost & Planning Report™ provides the same information, plus you get to compare up to 10 schools in their personalized report. Additionally, you can contact the schools admission’s office for more information.

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