A Better College Cost Calculator, But Still Imperfect


If you are a student from a low-income or middle class family who dreams about going to an elite college like Harvard or Wellesley, how do you know if you’ll be able to afford it? Those families are likely to pay less than the sticker price, but how much less? According to Economix, Wellesley has taken the steps to help those students and families get a sense of what they might have to pay by putting together a college cost calculator that asks questions like how much equity parents have in their homes, their annual incomes, and the amount of money they have in savings and retirement. The one major flaw: The calculator only shows how much the parents are expected to pay, and not the amount of loans the student may have to take out as part of her aid package, which is kind of the most important part (says someone who took out student loans).

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1 Comments / Post A Comment

sea ermine (#122)

True, but the student take the cost of the college (including things like housing, food cost estimates) and then subtract from that the number their parents are expected to pay to get a rough estimate. On basically every schools financial aid website they show the cost of tuition, fees, housing, food, and generally give estimate costs for things like books and transportation. They also show the typical amount of financial aid, and you can also look at the scholarships available and you can see the requirements for different scholarships (like, named scholarships) to see if you meet any of the qualifications and what the application process is.

Also, on every school I applied to (and all of the one’s I researched) they show the average debt of their graduates. Obviously this may not apply to every student, if the school accepts a lot of wealthy kids they may have lower debt because of that (or because they give a lot of financial aid) but combined with the rest of the information and the above calculator it can be useful.

Many schools (I don’t know about all, but where I went for undergrad had this) also show the average starting salary. This is sometimes under financial aid, sometimes under the career services website. If you’re lucky, they’ll show it broken down by college (so if the art school has a starting salary of 35k and the business school is 50k you can see that). If not, a quick email to career services should get you the information.

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