The government recently mandated that all colleges must include a net price calculator on their websites. However, many colleges easily found ways to hide theirs from students, according to an article in the US News & World Report.
An accurate net price calculator is designed to give students and exact figure on what they will pay to attend (tuition plus room and board/additional fees subtracted by scholarships and financial aid).
The government mandated these because many colleges were tricking prospective students into believing their schools were much more affordable than they actually were. Some colleges keep tuition low, but charge exorbitant amounts for room and board. Other schools publish high tuition fees but give nearly every student a scholarship, making students believe they are getting a better deal than they actually are.
However, some colleges simply do not want students to know exactly what they will pay to attend. So, they hid their net price calculators or made them very difficult to find.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy of the US News & World Report picked six colleges randomly and searched their websites for their net price calculators. She picked three public colleges and three private institutions.
She had a very difficult time finding them. O’Shaughnessy wrote that “your chances of finding net price calculators are slim unless you are dogged about looking for them.”
Of the six schools O’Shaughnessy searched, only one, Auburn University, displayed its net price calculator where students could easily find it. Most of the other schools buried it on some random page, or hid it in blocks of text – instead of displaying it as a link or on the admissions/financial aid pages.
O’Shaughnessy had to use Google to find one school’s net price calculator, which was “hidden” in a block of text on the scholarship page. At another school, she eventually found the calculator displayed as a small icon in the corner of a webpage.
Many schools had “cost of attending” or similar pages; however, O’Shaughnessy rarely found the net price calculators there. Another school put its calculator at the bottom of a long page, making it very difficult to find.
However, she was able to quickly find some schools’ by typing “net price calculator” into their search bars.
The net price calculators are great tools for students and their parents. However, very few schools will actually publish their calculators in a logical place, and most schools will force students to dig around for them.
But, every college must have one by law; so it is there and you will be able to find it eventually. First, you should try using the school’s search box or doing a Google search.
Also, by law colleges must make these accurate; however, it is still very difficult to create a completely accurate calculator because scholarships, financial aid and tuition figures are always changing. But, these can give you a good idea of how much you will pay for school.