What is a Net Price Calculator?

Graphic shows that a college's net price is calculated by subtracting gift aid - scholarships and grants - from the total stick price. What is a net price calculator?We all know that the sticker price for college is shocking. How many of us can actually write an annual check for $20,000, $40,000, $60,000 or more? That’s where the net price calculator comes into play. But what is a net price calculator?

The difference between net price and sticker price

The good news is that most people don’t actually have to write checks for the full amount of college. The sticker price is the cost published on a school’s website. However, most people will pay something less than the “sticker” price. But how do you know how much you will pay? How are you supposed to plan for college when you know that you may pay something less than the sticker price, but you don’t know how much?

In the 2011 recertification of the Higher Education Act, colleges were required to put a net price calculator on their websites. The calculators provide estimated net price information based on a student’s (and family’s) individual financial circumstances. It means that you can get an estimate of what a particular college is likely to cost YOU.


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Using your calculator

So, nearly every college and university in the country has one of these calculators available on their website. Using the calculator, you can input information about your financial circumstances and estimate your actual cost to attend that school. This is very useful information!

Net price calculators allow you to determine whether colleges on your list are in your ballpark financially. And, in many cases, your net price at a college will be dramatically less than the published “sticker” price. When students file the FAFSA (which everyone should do), they qualify for merit-based aid from the school. That means scholarships and grants sponsored by the school that you don’t have to pay back. So, it’s really quite important. You’re likely to discover that many schools which may seem out of reach are actually much more affordable than you imagine.

The only downside to the net price calculators on college websites is that each one is independent from the next, so if you have twenty colleges on your initial list, you would have to enter your family’s financial information twenty times in order to get twenty estimates. Some calculators are simple to use, others are quite laborious. They may take 10-20 minutes per college. This is time consuming and cumbersome. No one wants to reenter their finances twenty times over.

An easier way to get your net price

College Raptor has developed the only net price calculator that will estimate your college costs at all four year colleges and universities in the United States with one search.

You enter your family’s financial data once and get an estimated net price for all of the colleges that match your academic requirements, size, location, and other options.

You could spend hours on a net price calculator with a list of colleges or you could spend just a few minutes with College Raptor. (I’m pretty sure you can find other things to do with your time.)

It’s free. Check it out: College Raptor match search.

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