College-bound students who are financially strapped often don’t even bother to look at private schools because they assume the tuition will be far beyond their means. But the fact is that most who attend these old, highly rated institutions are paying drastically less than the tuition costs published on school websites.
The real “net” costs to students are being made more transparent by the rise of a new, easy to use financial aid calculator that’s being offered on the websites of several top schools. It seems clear that prospective students like it, as several schools have seen a five-fold increase in use of the new calculator versus the old, federally mandated one that was in place before.
Better Than The Fed Calculator
Mandatory college cost calculators were based on a good idea: making it clear to students and parents what the real cost of college would be. But anyone who has actually tried to use the calculators has found that, like other tech tools from the federal government, they’re slow and extremely complicated to use.
High quality private schools actually want to be more transparent about net costs to students, because they often have scholarship money to offer, and want to attract the best students from low and middle income families.
Williams College in Massachusetts, one of the top private schools in the country, is a good example. It’s listed price for tuition and board is over $60,000. per year. But a look at their new cost calculator shows that the average family getting financial aid is paying just $13,000. per year. Amherst college, another stellar northeastern school, notes that a surprising 24% of it’s students are receiving Pell Grants that significantly cut the cost of attendance.
The new calculator, which was pioneered by Wellesley College, asks far fewer questions than the old federal one and does not require login. Getting a cost estimate takes about 15 – 20 minutes of work.
The new calculators tend to be used by selective colleges. For more about them go here.