Help me understand Net Price Calculator

I am back to CC with kid #2 looking for schools after screwing up pretty bad with kid #1 but we did salvage that and she is doing very well at UMD and is super happy there. I am very grateful for this community! So now on to D21! The NPC is new to me and I was looking at Allegheny College for her. I thought that was way out of our Penn State budget price range but I ran the NPC and it came close to in range. So I am wondering if I did something wrong?

1 Should you always use your most recent tax return (even if the website asks for 2017?)

2 The number in household. Do we include our daughter who is away in college?

3 Number in college we should say 2 correct? (We will have 2 when #2 goes)

4 What is included in assets? This is the one that really confuses me. 529's? Roths? IRAs? Our home?

5 How accurate is this NPC? I know we have a very high EFC so If Allegheny says they will give her $24k a year does that mean it is okay to apply there? Does that go for any school?

I want to be careful to apply to schools within our budget this time. Another school that came out similarily was Susquehanna.

For someone starting college in the 2021-2022 academic year, you would use the 2019 income tax year information. Make sure you add in your contributions to tax deferred retirement accounts…because the colleges will.

Will your current daughter in college still be a dependent in the 2021-2022 academic year…when does she graduate?

If 2 will be in undergrad during the 2021-2022 academic year, yes, you put 2 as in college.

Assets are the same assets you would list on your FAFSA. No balances in tax deferred retirement accounts are included. Re: the equity in your primary residence…this is school dependent. Usually that’s a separate question.

Assets are as of the day of filing your financial aid forms…so anything you put now is a guess, right?

Are the NPCs accurate? Well…it depends. Right now, the NPCs are set for students who will be starting college this fall…2020. It will be updated late summer or so to reflect the 2021-2022 academic year. Financial aid policies DO change…so you need to redo this say…in September.

I think your biggest question is…can you pay double that amount ($48,000…maybe more) once your first daughter graduates from college.

Now…are you self employed? Do you own a business? Do you have any real estate in addition to your primary residence?

Allegheny surprised us with great merit aid for my daughter, $31k. Average stats, 4.0 W and SATs around Allegheny’s 50th percentile. We have high EFC as well. It doesn’t hurt to apply and see what happens.


What are your daughter’s SAT or ACT…and her GPA? Will she be a contender for significant merit aid?

@thumper1 her W GPA is a 3.8 which includes H classes and I think 1 AP class. She does not have an SAT score but has been working weekly with a tutor and has been taking practice tests. So frankly who knows. We can’t count on anything right now.

Good point…when her sister graduates college in 2023 I will have child #3 entering college–or that is the plan anyway. I am not self employed, do not own a business or any other real estate in addition to my home.

What is her unweighted GPA?

Did she take the PSAT last Fall?

Many of the smaller LACs like Allegany will give an application waiver, so it doesn’t cost much but time to apply and see how the FA works. It’s good to figure out the NPC to see where you might end up.

Usually, your qualified retirement accounts do not count as assets, so you don’t have to include the corpus in the asset questions, but you do have to include the amount contributed in the tax year reported. If you make $100k and put $20k into the 401k at work, you’d report $100k of income and $0 as an asset. The next year, if you put nothing into the 401k, you’d still report nothing as an asset because that $20k is now part of the qualified retirement savings.

You have to know the nature of the asset to know if you have to report it.

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@Mwfan1921 I don’t know her unweighted GPA. I will find out. Yes, her PSAT was 11XX. However that was taken without extra time and she was not able to finish it. She will have extra time (504) for her SAT/ACT. Also that was prior to any tutoring which she has had 1hr each week since the beginning of the year with practice tests. I have no idea what to expect. When we do get solid info I will be using that with the NPC but until then it is more of a guessing game and practicing with this tool.

On the net price calculator…if the $20,000 contribution isn’t included IN that $100,000, you need to add it in as income unless the NPC has another question bout contributions to tax deferred retirement accounts.

Allegheny asks for 2017 Tax return and W2 info (why 2017?) I ran the NPC and under liquid assets it asked for what was left in the checking and savings after all the monthly bills are paid. We don’t keep much there but my husband said we have savings bonds so I included that. Was that correct?

Untaxed income I included both my husbands and my contributions to our work retirements fundings. I have a 401K and he has a TSP. (Did not include contributions to other IRA’s because those monies were already taxed).

For Investments value I included the 529s, our Roth IRA, and traditional IRA. I did not include our Retirement accounts.

Putting in an unweighted GPA of 3.5 and a SAT of 1300 (all very wishful thinking) it gave us Grant/Scholarship of 31K with 2017 data.

Does it appear that I input the information correctly?

No. Roth and traditional IRAs are retirement accounts. Their value should not be reported on FAFSA or NPCs, unless specifically asked for.

@BelknapPoint what would go under investments?

Again…if your child is starting college in 2021, use the 2019 tax year information. I don’t care what the NPC is asking for. The fact is…your need based financial aid for the 2021-2022 academic year will use the 2019 tax year information…and the assets you hold as of the date you file your forms…which is a number you are just guessing right now.

Do NOT use 2017 tax year info. That is not what the colleges will use for 2021-2022 need based aid.

Use what the instructions tell you to use.

Yes, some students in my D’s class found Allegheny to offer merit and need based grants that made the net price less than Penn State and equal with PASSHE schools.

I would run the NPC with your latest income prediction. Keep in mind that the NPC might be outdated and costs usually increase every year by a few percent.

If your older child is attending college at least half time in the aid year that the FAFSA covers (2021/22) and you are supporting them more than 50% during that year, then you can count them in household size and number of students in college.

Some other PA schools that gave good NPC results for us were Susquehanna, Messiah College, Grove City College, Lycoming.

But we had to look at the four year cost, and we would only have two students in college for one year. The cost would increase as our FAFSA EFC would increase and grant aid would decrease as we went from two students in college to one.

For us it was better to look at a state school where the cost would be similar for all four years.

I do believe that Allegheny and Susquehanna give a merit estimate in their NPC, along with institutional grant aid. The NPC should then ask about GPA and SAT or ACT score. What did you enter for these to arrive at your NPC estimate?

Did she take the PSAT? Oh I see that she did. 1100 is above national average. She can probably raise it with some studying.

Also I believe they are FAFSA only schools, meaning that they base their institutional grant aid on the FAFSA only, not the CSS profile.

Primary home equity should then not be considered. Assets include checking and savings accounts, bonds, stocks, balance in 529 accounts.

We put savings, checking balances in regular assets questions and 529 and savings bond in investments. It should explain what all is included in each section.

This is the 2019/20 school year. NPC’s can still be set for that aid year. That would ask for 2017 income.
Some might be updated to 2020/21, some might not.

But I agree, use the income that correlates to the aid year you want information for, keeping in mind that COA will most likely increase and (merit) aid might decrease by the time your D attends.

Have her finish testing well before applying in the fall.
She can take practice tests at home.
There is a June SAT test date.

Have her apply early!
My S applied in July and got merit that is first come first served.

Are you instate for PA? In addition to Allegheny and Susquehanna, have her apply to some PASSHE schools as well such as IUP, Bloomsburg, Clarion, she might get merit there, especially if she has a 1200+ SAT.

<< 3 Number in college we should say 2 correct? (We will have 2 when #2 goes) >>

Yes, but run it again with 1 in college to see how much you’ll be paying during the year(s) after Child1 graduates. If that number is too high, then that would be a problem.

@mommdc if I have time tonight I am going to re-run NPC with 2019 tax info and with correct investment info per @BelknapPoint. She is taking SAT in March and ACT in April so I can sign her up to take those again and I should do that ASAP. Actually I will have a look and see what the deadlines are before I go and spend that money. I have a freshman son that graduates in 2023 from HS so when number 1 graduates college (2023_ he will be entering. So when I run the NPC and figure what i owe for her I will always have two in school at the same time. Then there is #4 lol