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Net price calculators help determine true price of college tuition

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Seeing the total cost of college – tuition, room, board, etc. – can shock anyone, but believe it or not there is often quite a bit of wiggle room.

Before you rule out a school as too expensive, you will want to run your numbers through the school’s Net Price Calculator.

Thomas Blum is the vice president of administration at Sarah Lawrence College. He says the calculator takes all of the factors you might have, in terms of income, assets, college savings and then calculates what you might be eligible for in terms of support.

The calculator, which can be found on a school’s website, will tell you which grants are available for the student and what loans and federal support he or she qualifies for. Taking all that into account, the calculator then spits out the potential out-of-pocket cost.

The cost produced by the Net Price Calculator is merely an assumption. Though the result is by no means a guarantee, Blum says it’s a very useful tool.

“There may be sources of support that you simply haven’t thought of and really aren’t clear from a magazine that simple states the sticker price for a college,” he said.

A law requiring all institutions to include a Net Price Calculator on its website went into effect last year. While there are different versions, the more detailed the questions, the more accurate the estimate will be.

While the number is just an estimate, Blum says it is one that families can use to make educated choices and, when the time comes, negotiate more effectively.

“There’s no question that we’re seeing an impact, and it’s really helping families be more informed and to work more effectively with financial aid offices,” Blum said.

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