How much will college cost you (and your family)?
It is not a simple price check. Read on to learn what factors affect the cost of your education and how you can strategically find a good fit for you and your family.
“College may seem expensive. But the truth is that most students pay less than their college’s sticker price, or published price, thanks to financial aid. So instead of looking at the published price, concentrate on your net price — the real price you’ll pay for a college.” (2)
1 – Start with the “ticket price”
This is the published amount of the estimated amount for how much it could cost a student attend that college. Also known as the “Cost of Attendance” – this includes what you pay directly to your college plus all other related costs. What you pay directly to your college are your “hard costs” and typically include:
- Tuition – Amount it costs to attend classes at a college or university.
- Fees – Additional mandatory college costs that help to cover college activities and benefits afforded to you as a student.
- Room/Board – Ho much it costs to live and eat during the academic year. The costs depends on the following factors: If you live in a campus dorm, off campus, or with family, what kind of meal plan you select and how many roommates you plan to have.
In addition, the cost of college also includes:
- textbooks/course supplies
- health insurance
- personal expenses
These additional college costs can be “soft costs” – giving you some room to budget and make decisions that could lower your cost. For example, textbooks could vary in price based on where you buy them and if you buy new or used, or even rent or borrow. Typically, buying new books from the campus bookstore can be more expensive than choosing used books or searching for lower prices online. Same for travel/transportation. Your transportation cost would vary depending if you live on or near campus and walk as opposed to having your own car (including car payment, car insurance, parking permits and gas). Travel costs relate to the cost for trips to college from home and returns – this is especially important factor for students who attend college long distances from home.
2 – Then, understand funding support for which you are eligible.
This starts with the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) to determine what government grants or loans you are eligible to receive. Your FAFSA results can also be referenced for any other need-based scholarships. Students, who are eligible, may be pleasantly surprised to learn how much grant funding is available through the federal Pell Grant and State Cal Grant. For the 2017–18 award year, the maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $5,920.
In addition to the FAFSA, students should apply for merit scholarships. Scholarships from many different sources can provide a great source of funding. Universities can also offer additional grants or scholarships to students who apply and qualify.
The result is like a “discount” on the full “ticket price” cost for each college. Not all colleges offer the same funding support – so research is needed to learn how much each campus may be willing or able to offer you.
3- Next, learn what your “net price” could be.
Net Price is the amount that a student pays to attend an institution in a single academic year AFTER subtracting scholarships and grants the student receives. Scholarships and grants are forms of financial aid that a student does not have to pay back.
Result: “ticket price” – funding support = “net price”
The net price is a way to compare multiple schools and multiple funding support offers. Consider this:
Summary to understand your net cost for college:
- What is the listed “Cost of Attendance” at the college(s) you are considering.
- The cost you see listed to attend an university maybe not be the actual cost you will need to pay.
- Before you cross an “expensive” college off your list, learn what your net cost could be.
- Hard cost and soft costs are different – one is set (hard) and one you can budget (soft).
- Financial aid and merit scholarships can reduce your personal cost.
- Compare schools cost based on their net price, not ticket price.
credit 1 : https://collegecost.ed.gov/netpricecenter.aspx
credit 2 : https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/focus-on-net-price-not-sticker-price