The bad news: You’re a college-bound high school student desperately trying to get a realistic sense of how much money you’ll need to come up with in order to make it through four years of college.

The good news: You’re among the majority, and in response to increasing demand, a federal mandate requires all colleges and universities to add a Net Price Calculator to their website as of Oct. 29.

What, you might ask, is a net price calculator? When you initially research tuition at a given school, what you’re probably looking at is the sticker price. Net price, on the other hand, takes the sticker price and deducts any merit-based financial aid or need-based grants you’ve been awarded in order to give you a more accurate assessment of what your true, out-of-pocket, costs will be. The calculator all schools must add this fall will prompt you to answer a short series of questions about yourself and your family’s income and demographics. Then, the calculator will regurgitate an estimate of about how much money you’ll need to either pay or borrow in order to enroll. In most cases, the figures calculated by the net price calculator are lower than the original sticker prices, so they can help you determine whether a seemingly expensive school is truly out of reach or actually a viable option.


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