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Net Price Calculator Information Center

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 Education’s Net Price Calculator template. For additional assistance with the net price calculator requirement and/or the Department’s template, please contact:


The Net Price Calculator Help Desk
(877) 299-3593 (toll-free)
npc@inovas.net


Click on the links below for information related to:

Net Price Calculator Requirement

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 student’s 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 Education’s Net Price Calculator template or by developing their own customized calculator that includes, at a minimum, the same elements as the Department’s 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 student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), such as income, number in family, and dependency status or factors that estimate dependency status*

*An institution may use either Federal Methodology or Institutional Methodology to approximate the student’s 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; and
  • Caveats and disclaimers, as indicated in the HEA.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Net Price Calculator Requirement

Q: Can colleges ask users to submit information that is not included in the Department’s template (e.g., GPA, more detailed financial information, etc.)? Further, can they require users to answer those questions?
A:
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 ask 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?
A:
No. It would not be appropriate to limit access, as the HEA requires this to be available “to help current and prospective students, families, and other consumers estimate a student’s individual net price.” 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?
A:
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 2015-16 data, and the Department plans to release updated versions in January annually. For example, the Department template for 2016-17 data is planned to be released in January 2018. We will notify institutions when an updated template is released via the Information for Financial Aid Professionals Web site and other channels, such as “This Week in IPEDS.” (Updated 1/25/2017)

Q: Will institutions be considered compliant with the HEA if they include a link to an outside party’s (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 campus?
A:
The statutory phrase “on an institution’s Web site” provides that students and parents must have access to the net price calculator via the institution’s “.edu” 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 “approve” an institution’s NPC?
A:
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 number?
A:
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 75th 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 Department’s template required, or can colleges include any inputs to estimate EFC?
A:
The Department’s 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 “income, number in family, and dependency status or factors that estimate dependency status” 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 Department’s Web site?
A:
Section 132(h) of the HEA states that an institution shall make a net price calculator “publicly available on the institution’s Web site.” 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 Department’s Web site because the Department’s 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?
A:
Foreign schools do not need to develop a net price calculator. (Guidance updated July 2011)

Q: Is there a minimum number of full-time, first-time students for which a Net Price Calculator is required?
A:
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 institution’s Web site?
A:
Since the HEA states that institutions must “make publicly available on the institution’s Web site a net price calculator…” the calculator posted to your institution’s Web site must be called “Net Price Calculator” in order to be in full statutory compliance.

Q: Where on my institution’s Web site should the net price calculator reside?
A:
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 institution’s 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 http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2010831rev . 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 updated 2/20/2013)

Q: Where will the URL for my institution’s net price calculator appear?
A:
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 Education’s College Navigator Web site (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator) and at the Institutions’ 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?
A:
We have developed this list of Frequently Asked Questions and plan to update it as needed. Additionally, the Department published Dear Colleague Letter GEN-13-07 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)?
A:
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 institution’s 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?
A:
The HEA requires that an institution’s net price calculator clearly present a student’s 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 – 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 issued 2/20/2013)

Q: How should we account for Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Department of Defense (DOD) benefits in our net price calculator?
A:
Section 132(a) of the HEA defines “net price” 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 institution’s 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 student’s estimated net price whether and how VA and DOD (or any other) benefits were considered. (Guidance issued 3/15/2013)


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U.S. Department of Education Net Price Calculator Template

The Department’s 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 following:

  • Their dependency status
  • Their estimated cost of attendance
  • Approximated EFC

The template uses a “look-up” 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.

Template

Related Files

  • 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 Department’s Net Price Calculator on their institution’s 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 link below to view the Quick Start Guide in printable, PDF format:
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Tables
  • Template Source Code
  • Readme File (for use with the Template Source Code)

Bulk Data File Upload Tool

Resources


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Frequently Asked Questions about the Department’s Net Price Calculator Template

Q: When will the Department update its Net Price Calculator template?
A:
The latest version of the Department’s Net Price Calculator template uses 2015-16 data and the Department plans to release updated versions in January annually. For example, the Department template for 2016-17 data is planned to be released in January 2018. We will notify institutions when an updated template is released via the Information for Financial Aid Professionals Web site and other channels, such as “This Week in IPEDS.”

Q: I want to use the template but make it slightly different. What should I do?
A:
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 2017-18 data into the template, but that is not an option. Why not?
A:
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 2016-17 data into the template, but that is not an option. Why not?
A:
Since the EFC tables that operate in the background for the template are based on FAFSA data, we must wait until the 2016-17 data is publicaly 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 only)?
A:
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?
A:
If your institution’s predominant calendar system is “Academic”, then data should be provided for the entire academic year. If your institution’s predominant calendar system is “Program”, 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?
A:
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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Institutions’ Net Price Calculator Web Addresses

For a list of net price calculator web addresses that institutions reported in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data system (IPEDS), visit the Net Price Calculator Center at https://collegecost.ed.gov/netpricecenter.aspx. Please contact the institution directly if you have questions about a specific net price calculator.


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Updated 01/25/2017