How accurate are the Net Price Calculators?

<p>I went through each of the schools on my son's list and ran the NPCs more than once to make sure the numbers were consistent.</p>

<p>While I know this is only an estimate and there are other variables to consider, I was quite shocked to find that Emory, which I thought had generous financial aid, ended up being at least $10K higher than similar schools and nearly double our FAFSA EFC. Also, it was almost $10k higher than Sarah Lawrence, which doesn't even meet 100% of need.</p>

<p>I was shocked that Emory wasn't more competitive. And in the end, my son took it off his list as this higher price tag was not financially do-able . He also took off Northwestern for the same reason, but that wasn't as surprising to me. All the others on his list are very close to what we expected -- and some were surprisingly low.</p>

<p>In addition, even though the numbers I plugged in remained the same, I got three different calculations for Emory, one of which was obviously wrong. This leads me to believe that there are some significant computer glitches with the school's program. (The numbers from the other schools were consistent, so I doubt the problem is with College Board.) I wonder how Emory's application numbers will fare once parents/students see how ultra-expensive this school can be. </p>

<p>What have other parents/students experienced with the NPCs? Have you run into some of the same issues? And how is this affecting your student's final list, if at all?</p>

<p>I have trouble understanding your statement about Emory. They do meet 100% of need but there is an expectation that the student provide self help and loans. <a href="http://www.emory.edu/PROVOST/IPR/documents/factbookprofile/CDS2010_2011%20EU_WebCopy21711.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.emory.edu/PROVOST/IPR/documents/factbookprofile/CDS2010_2011%20EU_WebCopy21711.pdf&lt;/a> Of course they may be treating your assets differently than other schools (each school gets to define what "need" is).</p>

<p>Yes, I understand that different schools use different formulas. The thing is, we have very little in the way of assets (we don't own a house and my husband is close to retirement age). And our FAFSA EFC is $17k.</p>

<p>My point is the shocking difference between Emory, which is supposed to meet 100% of need, and other schools like Sarah Lawrence and Kenyon, which come in a LOT lower. This is what I find troubling.</p>

<p>Perhaps the NPC is not accurate. That's what I had hoped, but after repeating it several times, found it still came out high.</p>

<p>I wonder if you might want to contact Emory to ask about this, explaining that you have had varying results with the same input. It would be unfortunate to take Emory off the list if the real financial aid award would be workable, and yet their NPC seems error-prone.</p>

<p>Thanks for the suggestion, svm. I already thought about that and ran the idea by my son. But at this point, he's happy with his final list and is not keen about having another application to fill out.</p>

<p>However, I may just contact the school anyway. Because at one point, the school was high on his list. The idea of a loan-heavy FA package was off-putting though.</p>

<p>I have to think that this problem isn't confined to Emory. I wonder how many other NPCs could be spitting out erroneous information. I don't expect these to be 100% accurate, but I do think the net price they generate should be in the ballpark.</p>

<p>I wouldn't take a school off a list based on a NPC, at least not yet, given that the NPCs are new and potentially buggy. If there was a school I really wanted to go to, I think I'd apply regardless of what the NPC said, then wait until spring and the FA letter and hope for the best.</p>

<p>
[quote]
we have very little in the way of assets (we don't own a house and my husband is close to retirement age)

[/quote]

Are all the retirement funds in retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks, etc)?</p>

<p>I sent an email to Emory to get their input and see if they've heard about similar issues. I'll report back when I know more.</p>

<p>As far as our assets go, we have zilch at the moment (yes, including IRAs, etc.) because of a financial hit from long-term unemployment. However, now that things are turning around, we're planning on making the maximum contribution, which I figured into the calculation.</p>

<p>And yes, annasdad, I agree that one shouldn't take a school off the list for the NPC reason alone. But it was so far above what we could afford, my son felt as though he was wasting his time. Although, if I get a ray of sunshine from Emory, I may get him to reconsider. But as of right now, he has a solid list of schools he's happy with.</p>

<p>My question isn't so much about Emory, though, because that's just one school. I'm more interested in hearing about how other people are faring with the NPCs and if they believe the results they're getting are somewhat accurate.</p>

<p>I wonder about glitches too. I have run number of NPCs and getting varying results as expected but one school lists $11,000 in "Federal Student Loans" - that I think is a glitch since you cannot GET that much in Federal Student Loans. I wonder if somehow they doubled the Stafford (5,500 x 2)? That would be a shame. Another one (ironically) has a spelling error when requesting a "rating" of the students' writing ability.</p>

<p>How are these NPCs handling CSS Profile issues? Are they asking a bunch of CSS type questions (like home equity, retirement acct info, etc)? </p>

<p>What about the schools that require NCP info? that could get weird since each side of a divorced family is suppose to confidentially put in info to CSS, but wouldn't be doing so for NPC calculations. </p>

<p>I did try out a NCP at a school that doesn't promise to meet need. It did ask for GPA and test scores so that it could include appropriate merit scholarships (preferential packaging) in its calculations. Don't know if others are doing this, too.</p>

<p>It does not make sense to remove a school like Emory based on the result of a generic net price calculator. The results should be discussed with your child ... as in, if the finances don't work out, you won't be able to attend Emory ... but don't take it off the list. You may find that some of the schools that look more affordable may end up less so when YOUR aid package is received next spring.</p>

<p>To be clear, it wasn't my decision to take Emory off. It was my son's. I love the school, but he was looking to cut down his list and that just happened to be one of the factors that tipped the scales. The other factor is that he was having a hard time answering "Why Emory" for what he wanted to accomplish there, and while he really liked the school, these two factors took it off his list in the end.</p>

<p>mom2collegekids, I found that many of the NPCs are run by CollegeBoard. Hence, there are many CSS-like questions. Many of the ones I have completed asked for additional SAT/ACT and GPA info (these were schools that didn't meet 100% of need). Even so, I don't remember seeing any where specific merit awards being estimated. However, they did note that the student may be eligible for certain scholarships.</p>

<p>I'm not sure how they would handle a non-custodial parent's info. From what I've seen, it's not designed to deal with that specific issue. Great question though. It will be interesting to see if the NPCs evolve to accommodate that circumstance in the future.</p>

<p>The idea that the NPC will somehow replace the work that is done by college admissions and financial aid offices is wishful thinking. At many schools, financial aid is not a cut and dried, one size fits all proposition. Thinking that the NPC will give a "real" estimate is silly. It would be nice, but for many, many schools it just will not be the case.</p>

<p>The idea that the NPC will somehow replace the work that is done by college admissions and financial aid offices is wishful thinking.</p>

<p>That's probably true at schools that have money to give away. </p>

<p>I think these NPCs will serve their purpose for those who are looking at various OOS publics without realizing that most of the schools won't care that they have EFCs with a good amount of demonstrated need. Those OOS publics are not going to give you need-based aid beyond the small amounts of fed aid. Some may give merit awards, but mostly only UVA and UNC will give their need-based aid to OOS students.</p>

<p>I've tried a few of OOS publics' NPC with made up figures of lowish income, family of 4, one in college, and all that came up was some Pell money, 5500 student loan, and sometimes work-study (some state schools don't seem to give OOS students w/s). </p>

<p>Similar results will also likely be found at lower level privates that don't have much/any institutional aid to give.</p>

<p>Out of curiousity, I tried out the Penn State NPC as an OOS student.<br>
I put in an EFC of 6000 (an EFC beyond Pell) and got this...</p>

<p>Estimated Cost of Attendance for 2011-12
Tuition And Fees $28,066
Room And Meals $9,432
Books and Supplies $1,536
Transportation $828
Miscellaneous $3,222
Total Cost $43,084</p>

<p>Need Calculation for 2011-12
Cost of Attendance: $43,084
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - $6,000
Total Need $37,084</p>

<p>Net Cost Summary for 2011-12
Cost of Attendance: $43,084**
Total ESTIMATED Scholarship and Grant Aid - $0**
ESTIMATED Net Cost $43,084</p>

<p>Other Potential Types of Aid:
Total Estimated Student Loan $5,500
*Potential Parent PLUS Loan $37,584
Total Potential Other Types of Aid $43,084
</p>

<p>LOL...they're calling a $37k Plus loan "aid".</p>

<p>I've run into that a few times this FA journey. In my business, we call that "market positioning." LOL</p>

<p>I ran the NPC in early Sept to see how accurate it was for the school D2 is attending this year as a fr using the numbers from my submitted Profile.</p>

<p>The NPC underestimated grants by almost 4k compared to what we actually got in our FA package. However, the tuition and R&B costs were a little off, so the actual difference in direct COA to the school was more like 2k (I didn't use their estimates for travel, books & personal expenses). So, I thought it was reasonably accurate using my relatively uncomplicated financial situation.</p>

<p>Yesterday I ran the NPC again because I was doing some comparisons for a friend who was getting more aid according to the NPC than I thought was reasonable given the school and their family income and assets.</p>

<p>The NPC was different! This time it gave 9k MORE in grants than we actually received. The COA had increased too, but only by about $300.</p>

<p>Re: the PLUS loan as aid ... it is aid. It is a government loan that is part of the federal student aid offerings to families. As an OOS student at a public U, you are not going to get significant institutional aid. There is a huge gap, and the PLUS is available to those who want to use it to send their kid to the school. Would that be wise? I certainly do not think so. However, because a federal financial aid product is available that will bridge the gap, it is included. They could just as easily have simply listed the $5500 student loan. That is all there would be in terms of aid. The net effect is the same.</p>

<p>My experiences running it where my two oldest attend(and attended) put us at +/- a couple thousand dollars which is less than 10%. I think the important and valuable aspect is for new college bound parents to set a budget....to not get themselves to tightly budgeted to the final actual dollars. There are so many things that go up and down like books, transportation, discretionary spending, supplies, lab fees etc. that using these calculators has a touchpoint is not necessarily bad, but they are not going to give the the bottom line on costs as there are too many variables.</p>

<p>Mom2, I haven't run UofM's calculator or even looked to see if they have one as it's #3's favorite right now but I have a sneaking suspicion it will look alot like Penn State. Here's the costs...here's your available loans!</p>

<p>I am noticing a lot of variation in the quality/complexity of these calculators. I like the schools that use the College Board calculator - more questions - more detailed breakdown.</p>

<p>But many public schools are using a very simplistic calculator - I just experimented with it at Univ. of Maryland, Towson and Virginia Tech. It asks very few questions - and just spits out an estimate of grant money - does not even show Stafford loans or work study. In some cases, the cost of attendance figures are from 2008-9. I feel like these schools may be complying with the letter of the law - but not the spirit of it.</p>