Are Net Price Calculators accurate?

How accurate are people finding net price calculators? I’m specifically talking about the ones where you put in all of your financial information, not just a few generic questions. My experience with Syracuse 2 years ago was eye opening. Their NPC was off by $25,000. My daughter wouldn’t have applied if the NPC didn’t show it as doable. I worry that it’s a way for the schools to bring in millions in admission fees. I don’t want to go through the same disappointment with my current senior. Thanks!


Are the parents divorced?

Are the parents self employed or do they own a business?

Does the family own any real estate other than their primary residence?

nope, just regular W2 work.

If you don’t have any unusual financial circumstances, as @thumper1 asks (international students, custodial parents, restaurant/businesses etc,) then the college’s own NPC is the best ESTIMATE of your aid you will get, though it’s not a guarantee. Apply widely (safeties, matches, and reaches) and hope for the best! :smile:

@greta2000 as an estimate…if your income isn’t low income…your FAFSA EFC would be in the 1/4 to 1/3 of your gross income amount…very rough estimate. You can download the FAFSA formula and run by hand.

Syracuse doesn’t guarantee to meet full need for all. And they use the Profile (as you know) so way more financial details are used.

When did you do the Syracuse NPC? After September of senior year? Maybe it was updated after you did it?

Did you have unearned income?

Of the 7 schools we applied to last year, the NPC was extremely accurate. A couple schools actually had the financial aid offer come in less than the NPC stated.

We are W2 only and didn’t apply to any Profile schools.

Our youngest kid got acceptances from eight schools. For five of the schools, the final net cost was less than the NPC estimate; two of those estimates were extremely close (within a few hundred dollars), but in two cases the final offer was lower by a few thousand dollars.

For the other three schools, the net cost was more than the NPC estimate; the greatest mismatch was about seven thousand dollars.

I should add that we didn’t have any unusual financial circumstances, and that most of the schools required the CSS Profile.

D20 was accepted to her ED school so she had to withdraw her other apps. The NPC for that school looked doable for us and the actual award was a bit more generous than the NPC. The school is need aware and meets 100% of demonstrated need. We do not have any of the “complications” like divorce, owning property other than our primary residence, or owning a business.

ETA The school does not offer merit aid.

The best answer to this is it depends on the calculator, they can vary. The more information they ask you to provide, the more accurate they can be. They do give you at least a general idea of what your “bottom line” may be so you can start planning now rather than being surprised when those financial aid offers begin rolling out.

I guess I’ll find out when Villanova’s decision comes out!

Ours were accurate but unfortunately that was because my kids were getting no need based aid the first year. Both schools gave merit aid based on scores and gpa, and in both cases the calculators put that amount in correctly.

For one, the NPC did not include athletic money and if it had included need based aid from the school, I would have known not to consider it as D could only take athletic money or need based school aid, not both.

Sometimes school grants or scholarships from the department or a talent award will not be included in the NPC. If the students gets $5000 from the music dept, need based aid might be reduced. You have to know if need based is reduced by merit.