Don’t Think You Can Afford College? Look At The Net Price

Hoover Tower in Stanford University campus aerial shot.

Flickr user Yan-Di Chang

Have you hesitated to include a college on your shortlist only because the fees quoted on the brochure seem completely unaffordable? It may be time to reconsider. A college that seems way too expensive for you, may in fact be surprisingly affordable.

Sticker Price vs. Net Price

The fact is there are two prices for every college—the sticker price, which is the fee that schools quote on their website—and the net price, which is the amount you actually pay after deducting scholarships, grants, and other financial aid.

Very few students pay the sticker price in any college. What’s more, every student pays a different price to attend the same college. This is because every student’s financial aid package is different, depending on their EFC or Estimated Family Contribution.

As you work on shortlisting your colleges, it is important to remember that the prices you see quoted on the college brochure or website is not what you will actually pay. What you will pay is the net price, which is considerably lower.


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Net Price Estimates

Most colleges have a net price calculator on their site, to show you will likely pay for tuition. Of course, that means you have to reenter your financial info on every single college website you’re interested in applying to. Or you can do it ONCE on and get accurate net price estimates to almost every college in the country—for FREE! This is the number you should consider when creating your shortlist.

It may help to know that some colleges with the highest sticker prices offer the lowest net prices to deserving students who demonstrate financial need.

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