Students and parents have access to a variety of online financial aid calculators that provide greater transparency in the college financial aid process. These calculators allow students to determine real college costs and determine their eligibility for financial aid. Families are eligible for financial aid when the cost of tuition, write an essay online, and fees exceeds the estimated family contribution towards a student's education. Families planning for college costs may use these financial aid calculators to estimate the financial aid for which they may qualify and make informed choices about funding their students' educations.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, best known as the FAFSA, is a mandatory form for any student seeking financial aid. The FAFSA4caster is a tool offered by the U.S. Department of Education on the FAFSA website. When families enter estimated college costs, family savings, and income information, this financial aid calculator provides an estimate of eligibility for federal student aid.
In fall 2011, all colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs began to be required by law to have a net price calculator on their websites. The goal of this regulation was to make up-to-date price information accessible to students and parents, allowing families quickly to compare the cost of attending different schools and receive an estimate of what financial aid they may be eligible to receive. Families can search any school's website for "net price calculator" to use the tool specific to the cost of attending that particular institution.
FinAid.org is a free website dedicated to providing comprehensive information on financial aid. The FinAid website offers families a variety of financial aid calculators designed to help estimate college costs, including College Cost Projector, Savings Plan Designer, Loan Calculator, and Expected Family Contribution and Financial Aid Calculator.
In addition to offering the ACT college admissions exam, the ACT provides families with college and career readiness information via the ACT.org website. The ACT college cost calculator takes about 10 minutes to complete and offers families an estimate of a student's cost of attending particular schools.
The College Board is best known for exams such as the SAT, PSAT, and Advanced Placement, but the College Board also offers a number of college planning services, including an online college search feature and tools and calculators for financial aid. The College Board's net price calculator allows families to get a personalized calculation when they input accurate financial data and select a specific college from a list of participating schools.
Financial aid calculators are helpful tools for families to use in the college planning process. Any of these online estimators can show parents and students the cost of attendance, their estimated contribution, and any aid for which they may be eligible. Understanding costs early in the process can help families plan for college expenses and allow students to apply to schools they can afford.