pic from flickr user 401(k)2012

pic from flickr user 401(K)2012

 

 

As your college-bound family considers a college, there are many considerations. Job placement rate, quality of program, and graduation rate should always be considered. However, for most families, finances play an important role in college choice. Recent research confirms this, showing that families are coping with rising college costs by more frequently having students choose to live at home, take online classes or graduate early.

 

Comparing the cost of schools before acceptance can be tricky. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that scholarships and grants may not be known until after the acceptance process is complete. However, for those who wish to ballpark possible pre-grant and pre-scholarship costs, there are quite a few ways to go about it. Here are a few that College Parents of America like:

 

College Net Price Calculators for Specific Schools.

Perhaps the most targeted search, these calculators are a way to get a detailed approximation of possibe net price of attendance at specific schools you are considering. There are two main ways to access them: through a specific school’s website (for example, this is Harvard’s) or directly through the Department of Education: http://collegecost.ed.gov/netpricecenter.aspx

 

College Navigator

Second, College Navigator, which is the Department of Education’s college search database, has some great information about schools. Furthermore, the information is reliable because schools must report data to the Department of Education. Unfortunately, some of the functionality isn’t intuitive. But average cost by income bracket, average size of grants, average cost of attendance, and many other key details are available for those who persist.

 

Overall Sector Comparisons in List Format from the Department of Education

For those who would fina a long list comparing lowest tuition/net prices vs highest tuition/net prices helpful, the Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center is a valuable resource.

 

Third-Party Websites and Calculators

These vary in functionality and intent. Some of these have elaborate calculators with many variables, while others are slimmed down and simple for casual searches. The wide variety means that there are lots of different versions, many of which are useful for different people and different reasons.

Our favorites, for both quality of information and being user-friendly, include:

For less intense searches, a basic CollegeBoard search might be what you’re looking for. Alternatively, for those who want to get heavy into some of the calculations, FinAid.org has a very long list of calculators that can guide you through what you’re trying to derive.

 

Have a method of college cost comparison that’s worked better for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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