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Average Institutional Net Price FAQs


The mission of National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) is to promote the quality, comparability and utility of postsecondary data and information that support policy development at the federal, state, and institution levels. The NPEC IPEDS Research & Development Panel does this by developing a research and development agenda for IPEDS, identifying topics that will help improve the quality, comparability, and utility of IPEDS data for the postsecondary education community, consumers, and policymakers, as well as providing expertise to NCES on related IPEDS Research & Development projects.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended, requires the U.S. Department of Education to make publicly available on its College Navigator website information about the average net price of each postsecondary institution that participates in Title IV federal student aid programs.

What is average institutional net price?

The HEA defines institutional net price as “the average yearly price actually charged to first-time, full-time undergraduate students receiving student aid at an institution of higher education after deducting such aid.” Essentially, net price moves beyond an institution’s “sticker price” and provides students and families with an idea of how much a first-time, full-time undergraduate student who was awarded aid pays to attend a particular institution after grant or scholarship aid is subtracted from the published cost of attendance.

Why do institutions have to report data on average net price?

It is required by law. According to the HEA, the Department must make available to the public on its College Navigator website information about average net price for all postsecondary institutions that participate in Title IV federal student aid programs.

Where do the data used to calculate average net price come from?

Data used to calculate average net price come from an institution’s annual submission to the Student Financial Aid component of the Department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). For more information about IPEDS, please visit

How is average net price calculated?

Average net price is generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant and scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees (lower of in-district or in-state for public institutions), books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.

For which students is the average net price calculated?

The HEA requires that average net price be calculated for two groups of students:

  • Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates who were awarded grant or scholarship aid from the federal government, state/local government, or the institution

    Other sources of grant or scholarship aid are excluded. Students who were not awarded grant or scholarship aid are not included.
  • Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates who were awarded any Title IV federal student aid, including students who were awarded Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, SEOG Grants, and/or Federal Work Study

    For these students, average net price is reported by income category and includes students who were awarded federal aid even if none of that aid was provided in the form of grants. While Title IV status defines the cohort of students for which the data are reported, the definition of net price remains the same (i.e., total cost of attendance minus grant aid). For example, the average net price for a student who was awarded and accepted a federal loan but no grant aid is included in the reported average, but the average net price for that student would be the “sticker price” minus zero because no grant aid was awarded.

For public institutions, average net price is calculated only for students who paid the in-state or in-district tuition rate.

Where can I find an institution's average net price?

An institution’s average net price can be viewed on its profile page on College Navigator (

The data used to calculate an institution’s average net price is available through the Department’s IPEDS Data Center (

Finally, the average net price is used for the College Affordability and Transparency Lists and the College Scorecard, both available through the Department’s College Affordability and Transparency Center ( The Lists highlight institutions with high and low tuition and fees as well as high and low net prices, and show institutions where tuition and fees and net prices are increasing at the highest rates. The Scorecard helps student learn more about a college’s affordability and value so they can make more informed decisions about which college to attend.

Whom can I contact for more information about average net price?

For more information, contact the IPEDS Student Financial Aid Survey Director.

Updated February 2019