Many people evaluate costs of college simply by looking at PRICE (a.k.a. tuition). However, there is more to costs of education than price.
Now, when you think of graduation rates, you might blame the students for not buckling down and being studious enough to graduate in the traditional four years. But, this may not be the reason … what else could it be? The answer … does the college offer the necessary tools and class schedules to assist the student in the goal of graduating? If classes are not available, how can the student be blamed? Colleges with nearly identical student demographics may have very different graduation rates due to the level of support the college provides their students. Here is a resource to help you evaluate and compare college completion rates.
Focus on Net Price, Not Sticker Price
Most people simply look at the college’s “cost of attendance” (on the university website – type the quoted words in the search box). The federal government now requires most colleges and universities to have a net price calculator on their websites; so also search box “net price calculator.”
“A college’s net price calculator asks you questions about your family’s finances and may also ask you questions about your GPA, test scores, activities and other things that may qualify you for financial aid. It uses your answers to figure out how much money in grants and scholarships the college is likely to award you. It then subtracts that number from the full cost of attendance to estimate how much the college might really cost you.” As of the time of this post, many net price calculators are poorly designed by only asking minimal, government required, questions. Thus, results may be poor. If you suspect this, keep digging into the other resources listed in this post as well as resources and thoughts in these other college related posts.
You may also use the College Board’s “Expected Family Contribution” calculator (on the College Board’s website – search box the quoted phrase). Make no assumptions about what a certain college may cost (versus what they quote as their price) until you have evaluated both the EFC calculator and the net price calculator for the school. This will help you determine whether need based or merit based should be your focus. There are so many factors that go into either to list here.
Of course, the focus first should be on your child’s interests (career choice), then the colleges that focus on that interest too, and finally on cost (not price). Your child should consider and match career salary to the ability to repay any loans after graduation as well. More on these final thoughts in these posts.