By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS
One of the most useful tools accessible to students is the Net Price Calculator (NPC). All universities are required to have a NPC on their financial aid website. NPCs are a great tool to use when assessing the total out-of-pocket cost associated with the school of your choice. They are much more accurate than just looking at total tuition costs because they factor in many other pieces of financial information. Below are some facts and tips about NPCs.
- NPCs take into account all the financial information associated with attending college.
All costs directly associated with the school including tuition, room and board (if applicable), fees and books, are included in the calculation. Any financial aid you are eligible for, this includes grants and scholarships, are also factored into the assessment. The remaining total would be the expected amount of money that would need to either be paid out of pocket, or borrowed through loans.
- While NPCs are accurate, please keep in mind that they are not exact.
The goal of a NPC is to give prospective students a rough estimate of the out of pocket expenses associated with attending a university. The calculation will cover most of the financial factors, but it is possible that certain components could be left out (athletic scholarships would be an example).
- To get the most out of a NPC, have all your financial information available so you can plug in the most accurate numbers.
When you are using the NPC at the school of your choice, you should approach it like you are filling out the FAFSA. It is not as thorough as the FAFSA, but you will need income information, tax return information, and any other financial information needed to get the most accurate calculation.
NPCs are another free resource that colleges offer to assist prospective students when they are deciding which school to attend. As stated before, it is federally mandated that all schools have a NPC on their website, so any school you are interested in will have that tool available for you. For reference, look at American Public University System’s (APUS) NPC. If you utilize a NPC (and use accurate information), it will assist you in narrowing down your school search.