By fall of 2011, in accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, post secondary institutions participating in the Title IV federal student aid program were required to include price calculators on their websites so that families could have an idea on their child’s potential cost of attendance. An effective tool? As Rachel Louise Ensign writes in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “price calculators were supposed to make estimating the cost of going to college easier. But some families are feeling burned by them.” Collegebound students have inputted data, received early cost estimates and then have been shocked with higher than expected tuition prices with acceptance letters. Problems can occur on both sides of the table. So what to do? If you’re one of hundreds of juniors from around the nation just returning from campus tours and anxious to compare potential costs, understand that the estimated price from a calculator is not set in stone. And, as further noted in the WSJ article, know the “hallmarks of an accurate net-price calculator”: 1) asks more than 10 questions; 2) includes questions about academic performance that can help determine merit aid; 3) uses current data to make projections; 4) prominently featured on the financial-aid section of college’s website; 5)developed in-house at a college or by a third party; 6) highlights net price instead of other measures that might include loans, such as “out-of-pocket cost”. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/6udwsaf

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