The Difference Between a School’s Sticker Price and Net Price – And How to Estimate It

When you’re looking at the price of attending a year of college, the costs can be a bit staggering. But that number you’re seeing is likely the sticker price. Did you know that what you’ll actually pay can be much less? Here’s what you need to know about the sticker price and net price, and how you can estimate what you’ll actually pay to attend college.

difference between sticker and net price

Sticker Price Vs. Net Price

What is Sticker Price?

The sticker price of a college is the advertised price of attending a full year. It can also be called the “Cost of Attendance” or COA. This number includes tuition, of course, but it also includes room and board, transportation costs, fees, books, and other expected expenses that you’ll be required to pay to attend.

Sticker prices can vary drastically from school to school.

What is Net Price?

Very few students actually end up paying the entire sticker price of a college. The “Net Price” is what a student will actually pay to attend a given school in a year. You get this number by starting with the sticker price and subtracting any aid you may receive, whether that’s from the government, college, or another source.

This includes all types of aid, whether for merit or for financial need.

How Can You Estimate A Net Price?

It can be difficult to really nail down how much you’re going to pay for a year of college without having all the financial tools in front of you. After all, you’re not sure how much you’re going to get from a school until they send the financial aid offer or if you won that scholarship or not. Every college or university also offers different financial aid packages, so a package available at one school may be much larger than the next.

However, there are some resources available to you to help you at least get a ballpark number. If your family has a financial advisor, for example, that may be a great place to start. They already know your finances and know what you’ll be eligible for.

Another resource, especially if you don’t have a financial advisor on hand, is to use the estimated net price tool on College Raptor. When you register, you can input information about your family’s finances. Each college’s page you look at will then have details on estimated net cost, expected debt at graduation, debt burden, and estimated monthly payments.

College Raptor’s expected net price tool definitely makes it easier to compare the price of college and make a better plan for debt and expenses. Each page contains resources on how to further lower your costs, how to take advantage of student loans, and advice for talking to a student loan officer. You can also see a breakdown of the sticker price of a college and details on tuition, books, supplies, transportation costs, and more.

Estimating a net price for a college can be tricky, but it’s not impossible to get a ballpark range. Which college are you looking at that turned out to be much more affordable than you were lead to believe?