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VIDEO: Net Price Calculator, what are they and are they accurate?

A question we get fairly frequently is are net price calculators accurate? Colleges are federally obligated to have a net price calculator on their website that allows potential attendees to put in some of their financial information and get an estimate, or some indication, that if you’re accepted into their college, here’s how much they think you’ll pay.

How reliable are those calculators? Like we answer most questions, it depends on the college. It also depends on the scenario, for example, there are no net price calculators that take into account divorced or separated families. There’s not much in the equation if you are self employed or business owners.

For some families, you’re going to get a really good estimate. And how good, again, depends on the school system itself. It tends to be, the more complex calculators, that some will take between 20 minutes and a half hour. Those are pretty labor intensive. The good news is, the harder the calculator, the more accurate the estimate.

Some colleges, however, are downright misleading. We pick on American University, a little bit, because their calculator only uses what’s called the federal methodology. When in practice, that institution uses the institutional methodology. So for most people, it’s not an accurate depiction at all of what they’re actually going to end up paying.

Now, of course, we’re a little bias, but we know the most accurate instant net price calculator is through College Aid Pro™. That’s where you’re going to get the best results, instantaneously, at an unlimited number of schools. We’re certainly biased, but we have battle tested our projections versus the projections of the net price calculators colleges actually use, and we’re really satisfied with the results.