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College Costs WHAT? Sticker price shock

“How much does college cost?” The anguished cry echoes from living room to living room across the country.

When looking at costs, make sure they include tuition, room and board, and fees:

Take a deep breath. These prices are “sticker” prices. This is the full cost of tuition, fees and on-campus room and board. Very few families pay actual sticker price. The vast majority of students pay a different amount, usually from 1/3 to 3/4 less than the sticker price. Many colleges offer huge discounts. At Williams College the sticker price is $60,000 but the average family entitled to financial aid pays $13,000.

Now stop hyperventilating. Large numbers of students are eligible for Federal, State, or institutional aid. (Institutional is from the college or university). Many students receive merit scholarships. So how is a person supposed to know what college actually costs? Here’s the best way to get an idea of actual cost, of course, the actual amount will depend specifically on your student’s situation.

President Obama asked the Department of Education to come up with a College Scorecard. This Scorecard is stuffed with tons of information about the schools. You can search by programs, degrees, location, and size. You can even search for a specific college like UCLA and find the average annual cost paid, the cost paid based on family income, and estimates of typical student loan debt and repayment. You can compare schools by state, region, size of the student enrollment, types of degrees, average salary after graduation, graduations rates, and much more. Put together a list of colleges and universities and spend some time searching for them in the database. Look at the average cost, then click on the “Costs” tab and it will show you average cost according to family income. The “Financial Aid & Debt” button shows you how many student receive Federal Loans, the typical upon graduation debt owed, and an estimated monthly repayment amount. It is a wealth of information at your fingertips (plus there are great links for types of financial aid):

Remember, few people pay the full sticker price for college. So Get Smart.

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