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Cost Calculators on College Websites Giving Bad EstimatesMay 01, 2012
Wall Street Journal – Last fall, colleges added cost calculators to their websites because it was mandated by law. These calculators let interested students know what they could expect to pay at that college if they were accepted for admission to that school. Today, the data suggests that many of these calculators are highly inconsistent or or flat-out incorrect. Tuition bills sent to incoming freshmen this spring do not match previous estimates. Estimates can be off by as much as 14% and often fail to list the amount of aid a family can expect to receive as student loans. They are so inaccurate that families are being hit by monumuntally higher tuition payments than they expected and find it difficult to compare costs at various colleges since the calculators do not follow a standard model. Some calculators ask for very little information, others appear to serve as marketing tools for the college and those based on a federal template provided by the Department of Education are typically erroneous. For more on the difficulties familiies and studnets face using cost calculators on college websites, read When Colleges Lowball Costs.
For an example of an accurate college-cost calculator that lets you compare the costs at more than 4,000 colleges, offers a a financial aid breakdown of gift aid vs. student loans, and is based on your personal financial information, please visit Your Total Cost of College. Know what colleges you can afford using the best calculator out there!