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Last Edited: 07/13/11
Determining the Real Costs for a College or Vocational Education

College affordability and cost transparency are of great interest to many parents and students when choosing an institution of higher learning.  One of the most often asked questions is, “With so many extra fees and costs, plus taking into account my grant, what is it really going to cost me to go to this college?”  It can be a daunting task to compare multiple institutions’ actual costs.


Because the real costs to attend were often hidden by some unscrupulous institutions, and in an effort to provide a true comparison of the cost of attendance, Congress passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA). This fall, (by October 29, 2011,) all postsecondary (after high school) institutions in the United States that participate in (get money from) Title IV student aid programs (Pell Grants, etc) must post a net price (tuition + fees + housing + room and board, minus all grants and discounts) calculator on their website to help parents and students accurately estimate the real costs of attending, based on a student’s individual circumstance. As you do your comparison shopping, look for this net price calculator on each institution’s website. Try searching for “net price calculator.”


The federal website has been set up to explain all this, plus provide a comparison of some of the most and least expensive institutions.

This website also has an interactive section to determine the net cost of career and vocational programs.

To get the full details of the law, go to the US Department of Education website on HEOA.