How accurate are net price calculators?

<p>I've done quite a few and used those calculations to help me decide which colleges to apply to. </p>

<p>How accurate are these net price calculators? Has anyone done a net price calculator at a school, then once applied to the school and found that the actual amount offered differed greatly?</p>

<p>Any input will be greatly appreciated.</p>

<p>There have been a number of reports here (recently) where the family contribution per the net price calculator and the actual family contribution when the aid was awarded were NOT the same. If it were me, and I were you...I would view these as an estimate only. The only real financial aid award is the actual award you receive from the college.</p>

<p>Unfortunately these calculators are new this year. I went back and computed my current students net price (she is a junior in college) and it is very accurate. That is only one school. The calculators do not address a lot of common situations: divorced parents, self-employed, business owners, farm owners etc. So you are taking your chances relying on these calculators.</p>

<p>I believe the net price calculators on each college are more accurate the more information they require. However, these calculators only provide a maximum estimate of the aid you will be given not necessarily the amount of aid you will be given. You may not get as much free money as the NPC says that you will get, and you may need to take out more loans. Overall, the calculator tends to be a best-case scenario type of estimate.</p>

<p>hk0000-
On what basis do you believe that the NPCs only provide a maximum estimate of aid?</p>

<p>Well, I would assume what hk0000 is based of speculation, based on the fact that colleges want to make themselves look more marketable and desirable than they actually are</p>

<p>All the net price calculators I've seen ask just FAFSA-type questions, some adding merit information. I'm not sure what conclusions can be drawn about their accuracy at this point, since no '16ers have received need-based aid awards based on FAFSA information. The CSS schools are known to take a whole lot more into consideration than I've seen addressed in any of the NPCs.</p>

<p>I also think the NPCs would tend to understate EFCs for small business owners, since there are provisions in the FAFSA rules that impact small business owners.</p>

<p>*I've done quite a few and used those calculations **to help me decide **which colleges to apply to. *</p>

<p>I've tried a few just to see what the outcomes would be. I can't help but think that some of these schools have figured that students are going use these NPCs to "decide which colleges to apply to" and are overly generous in their results. Some are putting in estimated merit scholarships WITHOUT asking for stats! </p>

<p>It seems like there's a fear that if the NPCs don't overestimate, that apps will drop.</p>

<p>It will be interesting to see people posting the comparison of their NPC results with actuals. I suspect many will find that their top schools won't be as generous as they thought.</p>

<p>Since people might be selecting their financial safeties based on these NPCs, there may be some very unhappy students this spring who find that their supposed financial safeties aren't affordable either. </p>

<p>* The calculators do not address a lot of common situations: divorced parents, self-employed, business owners, farm owners etc.*</p>

<p>True...but the NPC calculators seem to overestimate aid even without those issues.</p>

<p>Just for fun, I tried the NPC on Skidmore (NY) & Wheaton (MA) and the results were not the same, probably about 9-10K difference. I chose those two schools as they are similiarly ranked & COA sticker price is about the same. Certainly the results on these NPC's should not be viewed as an accurate projection of what a FA package will look like for your family. </p>

<p>You could also run your numbers on the Collegeboard's EFC calculator (IM) and compare that EFC to the NPC.</p>

<p>* Certainly the results on these NPC's should not be viewed as an accurate projection of what a FA package will look like for your family. </p>

<p>*</p>

<p>I realize that they can't be viewed as 100% accurate, but what is the point of having them or requiring them if they aren't even accurate within - say 20% - with accurate info being inputted and no odd situations?</p>

<p>These schools know that they can't be held legally responsible when the actual FA packages do not come close to NPC calculations. No wonder some schools' calculators are putting forth "best case scenarios" (merit awards, Perkins, misc fed grants, "preferential pkging awards", etc).</p>

<p>I compared my D first financial award with the NPC. It came within 2k per year. Calculator indicated univ grants of 20k per year need plus loans, work study, etc. Actual award gave her 20K merit and 2k in grant. We are certainly grateful but wonder- her merit just offset her need. Now she will have GPA's requirements to keep the scholarship. She's the type of student that will do this but it's not making much sense to us at this moment.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Certainly the results on these NPC's should not be viewed as an accurate projection of what a FA package will look like for your family.
...........
I realize that they can't be viewed as 100% accurate, but what is the point of having them or requiring them if they aren't even accurate within - say 20% - with accurate info being inputted and no odd situations?

[/quote]

I read SLUMom's quote differently. That it wouldn't necessarily be what an FA package would look like for your family. Meaning it would depend on the info each individual put in.

[quote]
the NPC calculators seem to overestimate aid even without those issues

[/quote]

Maybe I've missed the slew of threads on this but I've only seen one person stating the FA varied much from the calculator, and her family had a home business.</p>

<p>*the NPC calculators seem to overestimate aid even without those issues </p>

<p>=================</p>

<p>Maybe I've missed the slew of threads on this but I've only seen one person stating the FA varied much from the calculator, and her family had a home business. *</p>

<p>I was referring to my "practice NPCs" that I've done (I use a phony income that is beyond Pell to avoid those grants). Some of the ones that I've done have awarded merit without asking for stats. These seem to be "best case scenarios. One OOS public that is NOT known for giving need based aid to OOS students put in a need-based grant that I'm guessing would not get awarded in a real pkg. </p>

<p>However, there have been some posts that have described rather questionable results.</p>

<p>One student reported that NYU's NPC indicated a $20k merit award and the student had very modest stats! It's common knowledge that NYU awards merit/grants to those with high stats ...typically within the top 5% of the school. </p>

<p>*Certainly the results on these NPC's should not be viewed as an accurate projection of what a FA package will look like for your family.
...........
I realize that they can't be viewed as 100% accurate, but what is the point of having them or requiring them if they aren't even accurate within - say 20% - with accurate info being inputted and no odd situations? </p>

<hr>

<p>I read SLUMom's quote differently. That it wouldn't necessarily be what an FA package would look like for your family. Meaning it would depend on the info each individual put in.
* </p>

<p>???? Not sure what you're saying. Since the output is the result of what each family puts into the NPC, it should somewhat resemble what your package should look like (within about 20%...assuming correct info was submitted). </p>

<p>I did note that a few NPCs do mention that the results will be more accurate for those who don't have business income or self-employed income. Don't know if that's a new notation after the ED FA awards were shocking to some of those families. </p>

<p>I do think that when students are using the NPCs that more errors are likely to occur. They are less likely to know exact salaries, savings, investments, retirement deposits, etc. </p>

<p>Probably, the people that will get the most accurate outputs are the parents who've filled out FAFSA and CSS a few times before for older children. They're more familiar with everything.</p>

<p>I started playing around with NYU's net price calculator after reading a different thread. It gives very low estimates of aid, which may be accurate based on reports of how stingy they are. For example, for a family of four, one in college, making $60-69K, their net price would be $39K.</p>

<p><a href="http://www.nyu.edu/admissions/financial-aid-and-scholarships/financial-aid-calculator.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.nyu.edu/admissions/financial-aid-and-scholarships/financial-aid-calculator.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I wonder what kind of impact this will have on applications this year. I would guess that it will deter quite a few kids who had the "dream school" mentality.</p>

<p>It seems to me there are two related issues: "accuracy" and "interpretation of the results."</p>

<p>For example, here is the header that precedes the results when you run the UIUC net price calculator:</p>

<p>
[quote]
Based on the information that you have provided the following calculation represents the average net price of attendance that students similar to you paid in the given year who applied for financial aid by March 15:

[/quote]
</p>

<p>The data includes a line, "Estimated grant and/or scholarship aid." Grants are defined as based on need only, but "Scholarship aid" is defined as:</p>

<p>
[quote]
Need based gift aid that it is awarded based on a variety of factors such as academic achievement, talent, athletic ability, leadership, geographical location, field of study and/or financial need.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>So it's based on the average aid paid to "students similar to you" - but the questions asked to calculate the value are only the most basic, and in no way address "academic achievement, talent, athletic ability, [or] leadership." The only questions asked address financial need, field of study, and in-state vs. out-of-state. So while the calculator may indeed report average aid paid to students "similar to you" in respect to the information gathered, when the other criteria are factored in, you may or may not be "similar" to the average UIUC student.</p>

<p>EDIT: And taking a quick look at the NPCs for some other Illinois publics (I looked at UIC, NIU, and SIUC), while the details differ, they all do essentially the same thing - include a lump sum for grant/scholarship aid which they say includes need-based and merit aid, but without asking any questions that could possibly be used to calculate merit aid.</p>

<p>For example, for a family of four, one in college, making $60-69K, their net price would be $39K.</p>

<p>Ouch! I didn't think even NYU was * that* stingy. But better students find out now rather than later.</p>