On this page you can find a wide-range of resources including general information,
help files, and frequently asked questions related to both the net price calculator
requirement and the U.S. Department of Educationís Net Price Calculator template.
For additional assistance with the net price calculator requirement and/or the Departmentís
template, please contact:
Click on the links below for information related to:
The Net Price Calculator Help Desk
(877) 299-3593 (toll-free)
In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended, as of October
29, 2011 each postsecondary institution that participates in the Title IV federal
student aid programs is required to post a net price calculator on its Web site
that uses institutional data to provide estimated net price information to current
and prospective students and their families based on a studentís individual circumstances.
This calculator should allow students to calculate an estimated net price of attendance
at an institution (defined as cost of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid)
based on what similar students paid in a previous year. The net price calculator
is required for all Title IV institutions that enroll full-time, first-time degree-
or certificate-seeking undergraduate students.
Institutions may meet this requirement by using the U.S. Department of Educationís
Net Price Calculator template or by developing their own customized calculator that
includes, at a minimum, the same elements as the Departmentís template.
Minimum Required Elements
Institutions that choose to customize or build their own net price calculator must
include, at a minimum, the following input and output elements:
Input elements must include:
- Data elements to approximate the studentís Expected Family Contribution (EFC), such
as income, number in family, and dependency status or factors that estimate dependency
*An institution may use either Federal Methodology or Institutional Methodology
to approximate the studentís EFC.
Output elements must include:
- Estimated total cost of attendance;
- Estimated tuition and fees;
- Estimated room and board;
- Estimated books and supplies;
- Estimated other expenses (personal expenses, transportation, etc.);
- Estimated total grant aid;
- Estimated net price;
- Percent of the cohort (full-time, first-time students) that received grant aid;
- Caveats and disclaimers, as indicated in the HEA.
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Q: Can colleges ask users to submit information that is not included in the
Departmentís template (e.g., GPA, more detailed financial information, etc.)? Further,
can they require users to answer those questions?
Institutions can require additional info such as GPA (and other
fields that will provide prospective students better estimates of net price) beyond
the minimum elements that the ED template does. However, while an institution can
for contact info, such as name, email address, etc.,
that is not related to the estimate, it cannot require
it and should clearly indicate that submitting contact information is optional.
(Guidance updated 3/15/2013)
Q: Can colleges limit access to their net price calculators to students who
have applied to the college and have received a special log-in/user number?
No. It would not be appropriate to limit access, as the HEA requires
this to be available ďto help current and prospective students, families, and other
consumers estimate a studentís individual net price.Ē The statutory language provides
that prospective students (students who have contacted an eligible institution requesting
information concerning admission to that institution) should be able to have access
to the calculator to inform decisions of whether or not to apply, and requiring
students to apply first subverts this intent.
Q: When and how often do colleges have to update their net price calculators?
We expect institutions to update their calculators on an annual
basis when new data become available. Please note that cost of attendance data and
grant aid data should align and be from the same year. Institutions using the Department's
net price calculator template will need to update their net price calculators after
the Department posts updated versions for each award year. The latest version of
the Department template uses 2011-2012 data, and the Department plans to release
updated versions in January annually. For example, the Department template for 2012-13
data is planned to be released in January 2014. We will notify institutions when
an updated template is released via the Information for Financial Aid Professionals
Web site and other channels, such as ďThis Week in IPEDS.Ē (Guidance updated 2/20/2013)
Q: Will institutions be considered compliant with the HEA if they include a
link to an outside partyís (e.g., a State, a college system, a 3rd party servicer)
NPC on their Web site? Further, if an institution has multiple OPE ID numbers, may
it purchase one NPC and provide a drop-down list for students to select a specific
The statutory phrase ďon an institutionís Web siteĒ provides that
students and parents must have access
to the net price
calculator via the institutionís ď.eduĒ URL. An institution may host the NPC on
its own Web site, or it may provide a link to a calculator hosted by another entity,
such as the State, as long as that net price calculator includes the data elements
required by the federal statute, uses institution-specific data, and clearly indicates
that the tool is a net price calculator. Nothing precludes an institution from using
a drop-down list of all of its campuses; however, the estimated cost of attendance
that the student receives must be based on data specific to the campus location
identified by the student (i.e., it may not provide an average cost of attendance
for multiple campuses).
Q: Will the Department ďapproveĒ an institutionís NPC?
The Department does not have an approval process for institutional
and State net price calculators. Institutions are responsible for determining that
they are in compliance with the requirements of the statute.
Q: Can colleges provide a numerical range for net price instead of a single
Institutions can output a range of estimates in their net price
calculators but must also provide a single point estimate as the Department template
does. For example, the institutions could output the 25th and 7th percentile net
prices in addition to the median net price. Institutions using the Department template
can include a range in the context/caveat section if they so choose.
Q: Are all the inputs in the Departmentís template required, or can colleges
include any inputs to estimate EFC?
The Departmentís template asks for a minimal set of input elements
to determine EFC, but since institutions can use their own institutional methodology
to determine EFC, they can ask for more information in order to be precise. The
language in the statute provides ďincome, number in family, and dependency status
or factors that estimate dependency statusĒ as examples of data elements to be used
to estimate an EFC, and we believe that this provides flexibility in allowing institutions
to ask users to provide whatever information is necessary for the institution to
be able to approximate an EFC.
Q: If an institution has no institutional Web site, would the school be required
to construct one for the NPC, or could it just send notification to students and
parents about the availability of the NPC template on the Departmentís Web site?
Section 132(h) of the HEA states that an institution shall make
a net price calculator ďpublicly available on the institutionís Web site.Ē Because
the statute does not make any exceptions for an institution that does not have a
Web site, the institution would need to construct one for its net price calculator.
An institution may post the NPC on its own Web site or link to an external site,
such as a State or college system Web site, as long as that NPC includes all of
the elements required by the statute and provides information specific to that institution.
An institution may not direct students and parents to the Departmentís Web site
because the Departmentís net price calculator template is not a functional calculator
on its own. It is only a template used to create a student application and requires
a Web site to host it.
Q: Are foreign schools that participate in the Title IV programs required to
provide a NPC?
Foreign schools do not
need to develop a net price calculator.
(Updated July 2011)
Q: Is there a minimum number of full-time, first-time students for which a Net
Price Calculator is required?
An institution that has any full-time, first-time students, no matter
how few, must have a net price calculator. If necessary, the institution should
consider using data for multiple years of full-time, first-time students in order
to make the calculator more robust. If an institution is a graduate/professional
school that does not enroll any full-time, first-time students, then it is not required
to have a net price calculator on its Web site.
Q: Can I rename the Net Price Calculator when posting it to my institutionís
Since the HEA states that institutions must ďmake publicly available
on the institutionís Web site a net price calculatorÖĒ the calculator posted to
your institutionís Web site must be called ďNet Price CalculatorĒ in order to be
in full statutory compliance.
Q: Where on my institutionís Web site should the net price calculator reside?
The HEA provides that an institution must make a net price calculator
available on its Web site, but it does not specify where on the Web site it must
be located. We strongly urge institutions to make their calculators easy to find
by posting them prominently in locations where students and families are likely
to look for information on costs and aid, such as the Financial Aid, Prospective
Students, or Tuition and Fees pages of the institutionís Web site. It might be helpful
for institutions to refer to a recent report of the National Postsecondary Education
Cooperative (NPEC), which includes suggestions on how to make required disclosures
more accessible and understandable to consumers. The report is available at
. In particular,
the report recommends that information be available with a minimum amount of searching
on a Web site, meaning within no more than three clicks from the home page. (Guidance
Q: Where will the URL for my institutionís net price calculator appear?
Institutions provide the URL for their net price calculators in
the Institution Identification screen in the IPEDS data collection system (https://surveys.nces.ed.gov/ipeds
Net price calculator URLs will appear on the U.S. Department of Educationís College
Navigator Web site (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
and at the Institutionsí Net Price Calculator Web Addresses link below. Additionally,
the URLs are also displayed as part of the Department's College Scorecard tool,
accessible at http://collegecost.ed.gov/scorecard/index.aspx
(Guidance updated 3/15/2013)
Q: Is the Department planning to provide formal guidance on issues regarding
the net price calculator requirement?
We have developed this list of Frequently Asked Questions and plan
to update it as needed. Additionally, the Department published Dear Colleague Letter
to highlight recurring questions and their posted responses. We
will consider developing additional guidance beyond that if determined necessary.
(Guidance updated 3/15/2013)
Q: Can I create and post more than one Net Price Calculator for my institution
(e.g. for students other than full-time, first-time or for additional programs other
than the largest)?
Once your institution has met the HEA requirement by posting a net
price calculator applicable to full-time, first-time degree/certificate seeking
students, you may create and post as many additional calculators to the institutionís
Web site as desired. These additional calculators are optional, and as such, are
not required in order to be in compliance with the HEA.
Q: Can I include loans in the net price calculator?
The HEA requires that an institutionís net price calculator clearly
present a studentís estimated individual net price. The definition of net price
is the amount that a student pays to attend an institution in a single academic
year after subtracting scholarships and grants Ė forms of financial aid that a student
does not have to pay back. To be in full statutory compliance, an institution must
provide a net price calculation that does not take loans into consideration. (Guidance
Q: How should we account for Veteranís Administration (VA) and Department of
Defense (DOD) benefits in our net price calculator?
Section 132(a) of the HEA defines ďnet priceĒ as an average yearly
price actually charged to first-time, full-time undergraduate students receiving
student aid at an institution of higher education after deducting student financial
aid. This is calculated by subtracting from the institutionís cost of attendance
the average amount of need-based grant aid and merit-based grant aid from Federal,
State/local government, or institutional sources provided to students enrolled at
the institution for the year covered by the calculation.
VA and DOD benefits are not considered need-based or merit-based grant or scholarship
aid for purposes of the calculation. Therefore, institutions should not subtract
these benefits from the total cost of attendance in calculating net price.
While the Federal template does not take VA and DOD benefits into account, institutions
may opt to collect additional information in their net price calculators, such as
whether an individual is a veteran, if they believe that they will be able to provide
more accurate cost estimates to a student. After providing the student with the
net price as required by the HEA, an institution may provide a potential student
with an additional calculation that considers VA and DOD benefits, or any other
benefits that apply to particular populations. In doing so, the institution should
clearly identify on the output screen that provides the studentís estimated net
price whether and how VA and DOD (or any other) benefits were considered. (Guidance
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The Departmentís template is made up of two components: (1) the institution application
and (2) the student application.
In the first component, institutions input the following data:
- Cost of attendance
- Median amounts of grant and scholarship aid awarded to full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking
students by EFC range
Note: When entering the above data, users may find it helpful to
discuss the data to be input with the institutional office(s) that complete the
IPEDS Institutional Characteristics and Student Financial Aid surveys.
In the second component, users are asked up to eight questions to establish the
- Their dependency status
- Their estimated cost of attendance
- Approximated EFC
The template uses a ďlook-upĒ table populated with data from the FAFSA applications
database to identify a median EFC. The median EFC is then matched with the median
grant and scholarship aid amount entered by the institution for the corresponding
EFC range to determine the student's estimated amount of total grant aid. Estimated
net price is calculated by subtracting estimated total grant aid from the estimated
total cost of attendance.
Bulk Data File Upload Tool
- The Net Price Calculator Quick Start Guide is designed to walk users through the
basic steps required to configure and host a customized version of the Departmentís
Net Price Calculator on their institutionís Web site. A glossary of key terms related
to the Net Price Calculator template is also included to assist users with correctly
inputting data and setting up their institution's calculator. Before accessing the
template, click on the links below to view the Quick Start Guide for use with either
Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox in printable, PDF format:
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
- Readme File (for use
with the Template Source Code)
- A bulk data file option is available for uploading the data required to configure
a customized version of the Departmentís Net Price Calculator for one or more institutions.
Use the import specifications provided to set up your data file, and then click
on the link to access the Bulk Data File Upload Tool.
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Q: When will the Department update its Net Price Calculator template?
The latest version of the Departmentís Net Price Calculator template
uses 2011Ė12 data and the Department plans to release updated versions in January
annually. For example, the Department template for 2012-2013 data is planned to
be released in January 2014. We will notify institutions when an updated template
is released via the Information for Financial Aid Professionals Web site and other
channels, such as ďThis Week in IPEDS.Ē
Q: I want to use the template but make it slightly different. What should I
If you choose to make changes to the calculator, you can find the
source code either by clicking on the "Template Source Code" link under the Related
Files option above, or by going to http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/netpricecalculator
and right-clicking on the screen. From the menu that appears, choose "View Source."
The Net Price Calculator application is built using .NET 2.0 and C# programming
language. With this information, your institution's IT department should be able
to make any necessary changes. Please be aware that if you choose to modify the
source code, we will no longer be able to guarantee assistance with any questions
or issues regarding system usage.
Q: I would like to enter 2013-14 data into the template, but that is not an
option. Why not?
Since the Net Price Calculator is based on data from actual full-time,
first-time undergraduate students who have attended your institution, you cannot
use data for an academic year that has not yet been completed.
Q: I would like to enter 2012-13 data into the template, but that is not an
option. Why not?
Since the EFC tables that operate in the background for the template
are based on FAFSA data, we must wait until the 2012-13 data is publically released
before adding the academic year to the template. The Department anticipates making
updated templates available annually in January.
Q: What if my largest program is not Title IV-eligible (Program institutions
Institutions should use their largest program, regardless of whether
it is Title IV eligible or not.
Q: When entering data, should an institution use full-time, first-time undergraduate
students enrolled in just the Fall or for the entire academic year?
If your institutionís predominant calendar system is ďAcademicĒ,
then data should be provided for the entire academic year. If your institutionís
predominant calendar system is ďProgramĒ, then institutions should use cost and
aid data for the entire length
of the largest program (as entered in Step
2, Question 3 of the template).
Q: My institution's web server does not support Microsoft SQL, can I still use
the Department's Net Price Calculator template located on the NCES Web site?
Since the Department of Education's Net Price Calculator Template
is web-based, and the file containing the Student Calculator is html based, you
should be able to upload the student calculator file to any Web site. No other source
codes will be provided for assistance in creating your own Net Price Calculator,
but institutions are welcome to revise the available MS SQL code to fit their needs.
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a zip file that includes a list of the net price calculator web addresses that institutions
reported in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data system (IPEDS) as of to
March 28, 2013 in .xls and .csv format. Please contact the institution directly
if you have questions about a specific net price calculator.
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