How to Calculate the Cost of College

Higher education awaits... but can you afford it?

Higher education awaits… but can you afford it?

For all those students who have gotten college acceptance letters recently, congratulations! But now comes the next question: can you afford it? The Wall Street Journal has provided some excellent resources for calculating the cost of college, for all you parents and students trying to figure out where to go next year. First of all, I highly recommend the article Making Sense of College Aid, by Ruth Simon and Rob Barry. It provides an excellent overview of what to look out for in your financial-aid packet. For example:

Some schools don’t even mention costs in their financial-aid award letters, while other schools cite only tuition and fees, ignoring transportation, textbooks, and living expenses. Many colleges describe loans as “financial aid” or obscure the fact that the aid package includes federal loans to be taken out by parents.

There’s also an excellent online resource, How Do Schools Stack Up?, which allows you to plug in various schools and see things like ROI (return on investment), median borrowing, what percentage graduates in 4 years, the current cost including tuition, room and board and other expenses, and salaries of alumni. Lastly, at the bottom of the page, there’s a terrific interactive worksheet that allows you to compare college offers by looking at the “net price”—your total annual costs after subtracting grants and scholarships.

Good luck making your choice! It’s a tough decision, but you’ll get through it.

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