“I got $147,364 in scholarships to pay for college” posts your daughter’s high school friend to your volleyball team’s Facebook group. Although you like the post, you wonder to yourself, are all those scholarship funds enough to pay for all four years of the one high cost private college she was eyeing in the Midwest? With the sticker price of college rising over 25% in the past ten years, going to college is an expensive venture. Many people focus on the total of the gift aid or free money that they are offered in scholarships and grants. The real cost to a family is how much they are paying for the sticker price minus the gift aid – aka the net price.
A ton of families love to add up all the gift aid (grants and scholarships) that they have been offered at all the colleges their kid was admitted to. “Esther was awarded over $275,000 in scholarships.” Some families even extrapolate on what this figure totals for all four-years of college like “Esther got over $1.1 million is scholarships to go to college.” It sounds so cool versus “Esther was awarded from $15,000 to $42,385 in gift aid at the seven different colleges she was accepted.” We all want to celebrate achievements, but when it really comes down to paying for college, it comes down to what the family has to dish out of pocket from wages, savings, and borrowing to pay for college.
|Scholarships & Grants|
|Federal Pell Grant|
|Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG)|
|State Grant 1|
|State Grant 2|
|State Scholarship 1|
|State Scholarship 2|
|Institutional Grant 1|
|Institutional Grant 2|
|Institutional Scholarship 1|
|Institutional Scholarship 2|
|Private Scholarship 1|
|Private Scholarship 2|
|Private Scholarship 3|
|Private Scholarship 4|
The sticker price is the fully loaded cost of tuition, fees, housing, meals, books and supplies, personal expenses, and a few more costs like loan fees and specific program related expenses. The average sticker price for private nonprofit four-year college is $49,870 in 2019-20 according to the College Board. It’s a whapping $17,000 more than it was 20 years ago. Public school costs have proportionally gone up just as much. The average in-state public four-year university sticker price is $21,950, which was about $9,500 more than two decades ago.
|Sticker Price/Cost of Attendance|
|Books & Supplies|
|Other Expenses Included in Your Aid Offer|
Not all folks pay this sticker price because students are offered gift aid, that is grants and scholarships from the federal and state government, the college itself, and sometimes private organizations supporting student achievements and college access.
The net price is the cost of attendance minus all your gift aid or free money.
The national average net price for private nonprofit four-year college is $27,370 whereas the in-state public four-year university is 15,380.
Doing Your Own Math
So, the formula looks easy but when it comes to calculating your cost of attendance for each college and then totaling all your gift aid (grants and scholarships), you may be still concerned with your math skills. Have no fear. Use Quatromoney’s Net Price Google Sheet. You can copy to your Google Drive or download as an Excel Sheet to make this easier to save and compare this data.
Create Your 4-Year Paying for College Plan
Don’t just stop at comparing your first-year college costs. Quatromoney believes that families make better paying for college decisions when they know their 4-years of college costs and then balance savings, cash from income, and financing. We make it easy to do this in minutes for free here.
Step 1: Select your college. Enter the net price costs from the award letter or use our pricing data customized to your family's income level.
Step 2: Give us a little info on your credit strength, savings, and ability to pay cash during college.
Step 3: We calculate all of your college financing options, customized to your family's profile, and then display them side-by-side.
Step 4: Add your next college so you can compare your funding gap and make the best choices on college affordability, potentially saving thousands!
Colleen MacDonald Krumwiede is a financial aid and paying for college expert with over a decade of financial aid experience at Stanford GSB, Caltech, and Pomona College and another decade at educational finance and technology companies servicing higher education. She guides go-to-market strategy and product development at Quatromoney to transform the way families afford college.