Why Students Have No Idea How Much College Costs

"As the price of college continues to outpace the rise in inflation, many students and their families are making tuition costs a top priority in the application process. But getting an accurate sense of how much a diploma is going to cost can be hard to do," FOX Business reports

"'Families are not fully aware of the rate of growth of tuition,' says Eric Greenberg, director of Greenberg Educational Group. 'They view it like other commodities where there is tremendous price competition, but in reality, the education world functions very differently and parents aren’t taking into account those 2% to 3% increases that happen almost every year.' 

Colleges are highly subsidized, adds Justin Draeger, president of The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. 'State and federal appropriations, institutional aid and alumni donations make up the bulk of their funding and they can change at any time and affect the prices students and parents pay.' According to the College Board, the tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges increased 2.9% for the 2013-14 school year, following a 4.5% jump the year before.

Getting a good sense of the cost of a higher education has improved since 2009 legislation required each school to provide a Net Price Calculator (NPC). NPCs are online questionnaires that ask questions like ethnicity, citizenship, grade point average and standardize test scores to provide an accurate price, says Mary Fallon, a spokesperson for Student Aid Services.

While these calculators are a step in the right direction, they still fall short of providing an accurate figure, says Sally Rubenstone, senior advisor at College Confidential. 'It’s like the heart-rate monitor on the treadmill at the gym -- no one is going to adjust their medication based on the number it provides, but it will get them in the ballpark and tell them they need to work harder.'”

NASFAA's "Financial Aid in the News" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.