Do You Know Your College’s Sticker Price?


We’ve discussed college costs extensively on these pages, offering tips on how students and their familes can beat the high cost of college.[1] The so-called “sticker price” – which brings to mind the cost of a new car – is negotiable, but it often remains unknown or obscured by various fees and expenses not determined until after the student has enrolled.

Real Costs

Families uncover the real costs of college when the tuition bill arrives. That bill reflects deductions for aid, scholarships and grants, but few people seem to know what college will cost until the moment the bill is in their hands. Oftentimes, families are left scrambling to cash in a CD or borrow money, undermining their household budgets in the process.

A new federal law that is already active seeks to bring transparency to the college cost conundrum, requiring colleges to offer a “ballpark figure” to include tuition, room and board, fees, books and personal expenses. Information about any school is already included on the US Department of Education’s College Navigator website.[2]

Helpful Calculator

To calculate expenses, you will want to include information about a specific school. Detailed results will be returned including the sticker price before student aid. Dig down and you can get a better idea what your real costs will be once financial aid considerations are included.

Do you think Duke University is beyond what you can afford? At $53,035 for this academic year, Duke may be out of the question. However, if your family income is between $30,001 and $48,000 per year, then those costs are greatly reduced to a more manageable $8,277. Yes, what you make determines what you pay for college with only the highest income families expected to pay the sticker price or something close to it.

School Websites

Some schools are putting net-price calculators (NPCs) on their websites now to comply with a requirement that they do so by October 2011. Use one of these calculators and within 15 minutes you should have a figure delivered that will prove to be very close to your actual costs.

Another provision of the law requires colleges to include a list of required textbooks with the course schedule. That move will allow students to shop around for the best book deals further reducing their college costs.


[1] How To Beat The High Cost Of College

[2] The Christian Science Monitor: College tuition: New law aims for more transparency in costs


US Department of Education: College Navigator


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Categories: College Budgeting