By Troy Miller
Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, Florida College Access Network
When college-bound students are told not to worry about the sticker price, or the cost of attending a college, a new survey shows the message has not been resonating. Despite the amount of financial aid students often receive to offset college costs, the sticker shock of a college’s published tuition is having a narrowing effect on which colleges parents feel comfortable pursuing. The survey from Inside HigherEd and Gallup shows 70% of parents of 9th-12th graders say they are likely to restrict colleges their child applies for based on the tuition and fees needed to attend the institution. Not surprisingly, parents earning higher incomes responded they were less likely to restrict college choices based on the cost of tuition than parents earning lower incomes.
College can be very expensive, as well as offer a generous amount of aid. That kind of contradiction has made making decisions around which colleges they can afford a real challenge. Parents just want to know what to expect when the bill comes. Unfortunately, short of completing a FAFSA and applying to a college, two things you can’t do until the year before you’re ready to actually go to college, an easy way of finding this out simply does not exist. The best available tool for estimating what college might cost based on a family’s economic circumstances is the Net Price Calculator, a federal tool developed to help families get a quick look at how much college might cost for their child (here are some things you should know about the tool).
So how much can the net price and the cost of attendance vary for each institution? The chart below plots both figures for selected colleges and universities in Florida so you can see the difference for yourself. Keep in mind what each amount describes. Each institution’s total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees (in-state), books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses. The average net price is an average generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant and scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. For more information about how institutions calculate each figure, visit the IPEDS FAQ page.