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It’s time for transparency in college pricing | TheHill

Understanding the cost of a college degree can be difficult. That’s why since 2011 every college that accepts federal student aid has been required to post a Net Price Calculator on its website. Net price calculators should allow prospective students to learn their estimated cost of attending a particular college or university without having to complete the FAFSA, apply for admission, or actually enroll.

But, as we showed in a study published last week, Net Price Calculators are often not user-friendly tools. Instead, they can be confusing or misleading.

We aren’t the only ones to notice. Introduced by members of the U.S. House and Senate on March 27, the bipartisan Net Price Calculator Improvement Act recognizes three important realities.

First, to make informed decisions, students and their families need to know how much they — given their own individual circumstances — can expect to pay if they attend a particular college.  Students who think a school costs too much, or that they won’t get enough grant aid, may end up bypassing schools they can actually afford. And students who underestimate the costs may become derailed if they enroll without having the financial resources they actually need.

Second, net price calculators are one of the few mechanisms available to prospective students to get this information. Net price calculators may be especially helpful for the many students who attend high schools with limited college counseling and where secondary school counseling staff do not receive formal financial aid training, and when parents do not have prior experience with higher education.

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It’s time for transparency in college pricing | TheHill.

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