Across the country, eager college-hopefuls scroll through university websites each year, comparing academic programs, housing options and campus activities to determine which school would fulfill their academic dreams. One factor, however, is becoming increasingly important in this decision-making process: the ultimate price tag for each college.
Luckily, a new mandatory tool for colleges allows students to receive more personalized estimates of how much they are projected to pay once they enroll. A measure pushed by the Obama administration requires that colleges that receive federal funding post these net price calculators on their websites by Oct. 29.
Net price calculators — like the one on UC Berkeley’s website — present bountiful benefits for prospective students and will be a boon for those struggling to determine the affordability of their dream schools, especially given the ever ballooning cost of college.
A report released last month by the College Board on the cost of education indicates that the problem is only getting worse. It shows that the average cost of an in-state public education across the country — including tuition, room and board — increased from $16,162 last year to $17,131 this year.
Though college websites often provide general estimates of costs, the net price calculator offers a much more personalized estimate of their potential payments, allowing students to factor in the number of people in their households as well as the income level of their parents, among other dynamics.
While we do praise the implementation of these tools, colleges could provide greater assistance and transparency to students by also indicating how much their tuition has risen in recent years. This would inform students that the cost of an education could still continue to escalate.
Of course, prospective students should not take these estimates as the Gospel truth. The predictions they receive will be just that — projections.
We applaud the mandate that colleges use these tools and their ability to assist millions of college-bound scholars nationwide.