The Post Secondary Education Federal Cost Transparency Requirement

Students and their families are more concerned than ever about the rising costs of obtaining a college degree. The average student loan debt, of those who utilize student loans, now stands at $24,000 upon graduation, before the costs of any postgraduate studies are considered. Student loan default is published as a misleading figure of 7%, but only factors in defaults which are reported within two years of graduation, thus hiding the true figures.

Whilst students may have the academic requirements to attend college, many simply fail to educate themselves financially when it comes to selecting a college of choice. There are many colleges which offer extremely generous financial aid packages which negate the necessity of student loans.

Many should question the feasibility of running up student loan debt without a plan in place to repay it upon graduation. Those students and families who accurately assess the real costs of attending college are better placed to make an educated decision as to which college meets their affordability requirements.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires that by the 29th October 2011 every post secondary education institute which offer federal student aid must have a net price calculator in place on their web site. Net price calculators enable students and their families to accurately assess the costs of individual colleges, and calculate federal aid, grant aid and institutional aid.

Aid should be assessed against the total costs of attending college to give a clear picture. Total costs are comprised of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transport and personal expenses.

Post secondary education institutes have a choice of three models of net price calculators. They can elect to use the federal calculator template, source and partner with a third party net price calculator provider, or build their own model.

The ThinkAhead net price calculator has received excellent reviews and is already being used online by some colleges, including Yale, Williams College, Amherst College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It assesses student aid algorithms and has an advantage over the federal calculator in that it calculates post 9/11 GI benefits and merit aid.

A model of the ThinkAhead net price calculator is demonstrated on and is recommended as a calculator that factors in more individuality than the federal model. Families who utilize the net price calculators may well find that their college of first choice changes when others offer more affordability due to greater financial aid, and thus less borrowing requirements. They may also reveal that colleges which seemed out of ones financial league are actually affordable options.