July 15, 2022

By Leanne Soulard

There is something unique about this current class of rising seniors when it comes to building a college list. Right from the start, many of my students told me that they were concerned about the cost of college and asked very pointed questions about how to find a good financial fit. Perhaps it’s the current state of affairs with the economy or maybe it’s all the news coverage about what college graduates collectively owe on student loans but, whatever the reason, I am nothing short of impressed!

Using a Net Price Calculator is one of the best ways to predict the cost of attending a particular college. How much a family can or is willing to pay for a college education is highly personal. Luckily, there are Net Price Calculators (NPC) specifically designed to help students approximate what it will cost them to attend a specific college.

Every college must have an NPC on its website, usually found on the Financial Aid page. You can also type “net price calculator” into the search bar on any school’s home page to find it quickly. Some schools house a generic NPC on their website while others offer more specific tools that can help a family get to within a few thousand dollars. Marist College offers a good example of what a comprehensive NPC looks like. (And it’s a great school.) You’ll notice that beyond the typical tax return information, this calculator asks about a student’s academic standing to determine eligibility for merit scholarships. Always answer all of the questions accurately! The more specific the calculator and the more accurate the information you enter into the tool, the more accurate the predicted net price will be.

Why do we suggest using an NPC to finalize your college list? In our experience, this tool helps families take the emotion out of “the money conversation” and provides an objective reality about whether or not a school is a financial fit for a student. An NPC can help you get to within a couple of thousand dollars of the cost to attend when used correctly. From there, it is up to students and families to decide whether a school is worth the price, carefully considering how much loan debt will be incurred. Based on what I’ve seen, I’m confident that this class will make an informed decision that is right for them.

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