Net Price Calculator Publications and Resources

Since October 29, 2011, almost all U.S. colleges and universities are required to have "net price calculators" on their websites.  These online tools can make it much easier for prospective students and their families to look past often scary "sticker prices" and start figuring out which colleges they might be able to afford.

Net price calculators provide early, individualized estimates of what a specific college will cost after grants and scholarships. The "net price" is what students and their families would have to earn, save, or borrow to go to that school.  This early information about college costs and financial aid can help students discover that their dream school may be more (or less) affordable than they thought - before they have to decide where to apply.

Resources from TICAS:

  • Adding It All Up 2012: Are College Net Price Calculators Easy to Find, Use, and Compare? (October 2012). This report examines the state of net price calculators nearly a year after almost all U.S. colleges were required to post them on their websites. Our in-depth look at 50 randomly selected colleges' calculators found that many are difficult for prospective college students and their families to find, use, and compare. The report includes specific recommendations for colleges and the U.S. Department of Education to make net price calculators more useful to all students and families.

  • How are Net Price Calculators Adding Up, One Year Later? (October 2012). Presentation at the 2012 National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) conference. TICAS presented its new research on net price calculators, while college counselors from uAspire and Austin High School and the financial aid director at Stanford University discussed the student and college perspective on those online tools.

  • Tips for Using "Net Price Calculators" (March 2012). Consumer tips for how to find, use, and make the most of these new online tools.

  • Net Price Calculators as Financial Aid "Game Changers" (September 2011). Response to New York Times blog post on the potential usefulness of net price calculators.

  • Adding It All Up: An Early Look at Net Price Calculators (March 2011). We found mixed results for how easy net price calculators were to find, use, and understand, even among early adopters. This issue brief details our investigation's findings and offers recommendations for how colleges can make their calculators as helpful as possible for students and their families. See our press release for a summary.

  • A First Look at Net Price Data (August 2010). Overview of the Department of Education's new net price data and the federal net price calculator requirement for colleges. This blog post includes an example of a net price calculator that displays cost estimates in a misleading way, making the college look more affordable than it likely will be.

Resources from the Department of Education:

  • Net Price Calculator Center. Aimed at students, this page provides information about net price calculators and allows students to search for the net price calculators of specific colleges they're interested in.