Net Price Calculator

Do your homework, use a net price calculator

Now that most college applications have been submitted, students’ and families are eagerly awaiting their admissions results. The good news is, you don’t have to wait until then to find out if the colleges on your student’s list are really affordable.

All parents must understand that the college application process is a series of steps. You don’t want to misstep because it could cost you greatly. Once your child has created a college list, do your homework. Each college or university will have what is called a “Net priced calculator” on their website. The net price is the difference between the “sticker” price (full cost) to attend a specific college, minus any grants and scholarships for which students may be eligible. The sticker price includes direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) and indirect costs (books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses). All colleges have a “sticker price,” but the actual cost of attendance will vary by student. It will also inform you of what your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) will be. The (EFC) is the amount that you’re expected to pay that’s not covered by grants and scholarships.


The sticker price to attend Stanford University while living on campus during the 2014-2015 academic year is roughly 60, 800. I used the net price calculator with fictitious numbers for the purpose of this example. Based on the financial information I entered, the net price calculator estimated that my expected family contribution (EFC) would be $11, 700. In this example my child qualified for $49, 100 in scholarships and grants.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has a 2014-2015 sticker price of 33,364. In this example my child qualified for $13,342 in grants, which lowered my net price to $20,022.00. In this scenario my child was also awarded $8,200 in Work-Study and loans. That made our (EFC) $11,822 for the academic year.

Step: 1

Fill out the net price calculator for all colleges and universities that are on your child’s college list. Remember the net price calculator is only going to give you an estimate of what grants, scholarships and loans that maybe available to help offset the sticker price. It will also inform you of what your families estimated family contribution (EFC) will be. The (EFC) is the amount that you’re expected to pay that’s not covered by grants and scholarships.

Step: 2

Once you’ve determined what is affordable for your family situation, then you can adjust your child’s college list accordingly. This will allow you to have a targeted list of colleges that are truly a good fit. It’s not too late if you’ve already applied to colleges without checking the net price first. Having an estimate of what each college may cost your family is still good information. Keep in mind that you won’t know the actual price until the college or university sends an admission offer with financial aid information.

Step: 3

If you want to be considered for financial aid, don’t forget to fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Visit the website to learn more information about timelines and deadlines.

Step: 4

Look for free workshops offered on financial aid. Starting in January of each year, most high schools and even some colleges will offer financial aid workshops. For more information you can also visit websites like:

For more college related resources please visit my website at