Comparing the “sticker price” of various colleges may seem like a reasonable first step to determining what your family can afford for college costs. But if you are like many families in the Ocean State, you are probably going to be paying less than the sticker price when all is said and done. Before you make yourself crazy searching on websites trying to figure college and university sticker prices - which may not mean much for your family in the long run - consider using each college’s Net Price Calculator.
The Net Price Calculator measures your family's financial ability to pay for college and uses other information to estimate the amount of grants, scholarships, and other financial aid you could potentially receive. Your "net price" is the difference between the amount of financial assistance you receive from the school, federal government and state - and the total cost of attendance at that school.
All schools are required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website. It’s often housed on the school financial aid site, but if you can’t locate it, search for “Net Price Calculator” in the search box of the college website.
Before you sit down to examine Net Price Calculators at different schools, there are some things that you will need to have handy. Start with your most recent tax return for both you and the student. W-2’s may be needed if you file a joint return. Depending on the school, it may be handy to know your child’s CSS profile user name and password, but you will also have the opportunity to sign in as a guest.
The Net Price Calculator is a valuable tool in the college shopping process. We recommend you start using it to narrow down your college list, whether the student is in 10th or 12th grade.
Also, remember to sit down with your child before their junior year in high school - if you haven’t already - and give them a realistic idea of what money you are able to contribute towards college. Make clear statements about your financial goals and use all the resources available to find a school that meets all of your family’s needs.
Need some assistance narrowing down your options? Make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of RI.