Sticker Price against Net Price
Just like buyers of cars never really pay sticker price and are able to negotiate a lower price before driving them out of a dealer’s lot, most families rarely pay the sticker price listed on a college website.
The net price of attending college is highly tailored to an individual’s situation and considers a variety of factors unrelated to the merit of the student - such as if parents are unmarried, divorced or separated; the number of children in college; the size of the household; family income, savings and commitments, such as alimony; family debt; willingness of students to work in the summer or during term and so on. Colleges and universities quote their net price estimates based on this information.
Two students with identical academic accomplishments can therefore be offered entirely different net price estimates from the same school. The College Board reminds us: “It is possible that your net cost will be lower at a college with a high sticker price or higher at a college with a lower sticker price. You may find that some colleges you thought were financially out of your reach may be very affordable.”
Throughout this book, we use the “sticker price” to model all of our calculations recognizing that for most families, the “net price”, being lower, will likely bring these very calculations more in their favor.
To estimate net price, visit your desired school’s website and be prepared to spend 20-30 minutes to answer many questions about your situation to get the most accurate estimate. Or you could go to the one-stop site of the College Board’s and do the same for the many participating colleges on the site. Another net price estimator site is run by College Abacus, which claims that nearly 5,000 colleges participate.
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