College Costs: the Requirement of a Net Price Calculator

July 19, 2010

Larry Granillo, who works at Marquette University, comments on my posting about whether net prices are rising by calling attention to the new federal requirement of putting a net price calculator on your website.

“With the Higher Education Act that passed last year, one of the things it demanded of universities was to be more transparent about Net Cost. The big solution that the Act chose – besides making IPEDS more thorough, both for the current year and for past year data – is the requirement that all Title IV schools provide a Net Price Calculator on their website by Nov 2011.

“The calculator is an estimator, but is required to be as accurate as the school can make it. After giving family size, income, and other logical info (SAT score, GPA, etc) that helps the university determine what they might be offered, the Calculator returns the average package someone with those circumstances received for the current year. It then uses that to calculate the Net Price (Cost of Attendance minus grants & scholarships available). Schools can purchase a Calculator from a vendor, create one themselves, or use the Fed’s template calculator (which is lousy). This is a good example of one of the vendor calcs:

“With the use of the Calculators, as well as the increased info in IPEDS, all of these questions are going to be much easier to answer.

“Of course, until all finance info is available for all schools, people are just going to focus on what they see as flaws in the available data, and schools will respond to that, and then everyone will want more data about how things have changed, etc…”

In today’s Inside Higher Education, Ken Barnds, who is V.P for Enrollment, Communications and Planning at Augustana College doubts the net price calculators will have positive or expected consequences.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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