Tuition Expense: Is the Metric Still Useful?

As college tuitions continue to climb steadily into the stratosphere, they are garnering more and more attention. Just this week search volume for term "college tuition" reached a new high on Google. Indeed, the trends are alarming, but college affordability is a function of many more things besides the headline tuition number.

Net cost, which is the actual amount paid after grant and scholarship aid, is a much better affordability metric and should undoubtedly get more press than it does. Some of the most expensive schools in terms of headline tuition are actually the most affordable after grant and scholarship aid. In fact, we have found there is very little correlation between headline tuition and net price.

Net price is less widely quoted in the press than headline tuition (or "sticker price") because it is different for every student, and therefore difficult to compare across schools.

With a little digging, however, sufficient data can be found to determine relative affordability. The National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator website has a wealth of net price data. Furthermore, due to a Congressional action, every institution must provide an expected family contribution (EFC) calculator. These handy online tools, which require user inputs regarding family financial resources, can give a rough estimate of what one's financial aid package is likely to look like.

Use our site to look up the full financial profiles (including sticker price, average net tuition, and breakdown of students receiving aid) for the schools you're considering.

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