How Much Will College Really Cost You?

College is expensive, this isn’t news to anyone, but just how expensive will it be for you? After taking financial aid, grants, and scholarships into consideration, the exact cost of your education might get a little blurry. Thankfully, the vast majority of US college’s are required to have a “net price calculator” to help students and their families estimate what their costs might be.

An online college calculator helps to compare the costs of different schools and see what out of pocket costs you’re responsible for, relative to the amount of financial aid you receive. Here’s a breakdown of the different online student loan calculators available for you to use:

Net Price Calculator

 This type of calculator provides an individual estimate on what a specific college will cost after scholarships and grants. The “net price” is what students and families would have to earn, save or borrow to attend that particular school.


 This financial aid calculator offered through the Department of Education, allows students to estimate aid early on or before you fill out a FASFA form. To get a better picture of how much financial aid you might receive, you’ll need to include data from your tax returns as well information about your assets. This calculator also acts as a good warm up to filling out the FASFA application, since many of the questions on both forms are the same.

College Scorecard

This is a one page form developed by the Obama Administration. The College Scorecard shows the graduation rate, mean borrowing amount, loan default rate, chances of accruing debt and employment rate of graduates from any particular school. You can search by the name of the college and find scorecards for colleges based on programs/majors offered, location and enrollment size to determine which institutions are the best fit for you. These scorecards help you figure out the cost of each school and assess the value of a particular college as well as the return on your investment.

EFC Calculator

 The Expected Family Contribution Calculator is offered by the College Board. This calculator estimates how much the student’s family will be expected to contribute for the year. It also lets you gain a window into a student’s financial aid eligibility. The difference between the total cost and the student’s EFC is equal to the student’s financial need and the amount of aid you are eligible to receive.

If used effectively, these calculators can alleviate some of the stress that comes when determining a school. Having a clear idea of what your costs might be should help you to narrow down your choices and help you find the school that’s the best fit financially for you. Paying for college may seem difficult to manage, but like everything else it becomes much easier when you do your homework.

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