Net Price Calculators Add Confusion To College Costs

Ann McClure's picture

When it comes to estimating the cost of college, sticker shock may now be replaced with sticker confusion.

Colleges and universities are now required to include a "net price calculator" on their web sites to help people figure out costs. Because of financial aid, most people don't actually pay full price and this is supposed to offer a more realistic estimate.

Often, however, the figures aren't realistic. Many colleges use 2009 prices because that's what the federal template is based on. That doesn't help students at Florida's public universities, because tuition and fees alone have gone up 15 percent a year since then.

And schools aren't always using the same information to estimate a price because the the U.S. Department of Education doesn't require them to. Some factor Bright Futures scholarships into the cost, others do not. Some factor in work study or subsidized student loans, while others include only grant money.

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