PERSPECTIVES: There’s New Help In Calculating College Costs

FROM DAVE LEONHARDT, Opinion Today, in The New York Times (January 17, 2018).

College Costs. Many people believe that college costs more than it actually does.
Average net tuition at community colleges is less than zero — seriously — once financial aid is taken into account. Average in-state tuition at public colleges will be just $4,140 this year. And many elite private colleges cover much of their sky-high list-price tuition through scholarships.
Yet many middle-class and low-income families believe tuition will cost them tens of thousands of dollars a year. This misperception has a serious downside. It keeps some people from attending college, even though the financial (and nonfinancial) benefits of a degree are enormous.
Fortunately, a growing number of colleges are starting to take tuition misperceptions seriously. Sixteen top colleges are announcing this morning that they’re joining an effort called MyIntuition — an online calculator that lets people answer just a few questions, anonymously, and receive an estimate of how much attending each college would cost.
The 16 include Boston College, Brown, Davidson, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, St. Olaf and Yale. They’ve joined 15 others that already participate. The calculator was created by Phillip Levine, an economist at Wellesley College.
The Boston Globe named the calculator one of 2017’s “bold new ideas,” and administrators at Dartmouth say it has helped them attract more low-income applicants. I’ve written about it before, with more details here and here.
The calculator is remarkably easy to use, far easier than other financial-aid tools. If you have a child nearing college age, or you’re simply curious, give it a whirl — with real or hypothetical information.


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