I. GETTING THE MOST OUT OF NPCs In this site you will learn how to use NPC's effectively, resolving the minor issues that limit their efficiency, and you're going to become experts in using NPC's right here in the next hour. You will also review examples of NPC results based on the financial data of two sample families, one at the middle and one at the lower income level, for about 125 American colleges. But your results will be based on your family's own finances, and they will be unique to your family. It will be a fun process of discovery, and your NPC results will help you focus your college search on realistic alternatives that meet your individual needs. I'm certain you will find your NPC results surprising, enlightening, and maybe even life changing. However, your results will depend on your effort. Your results are truly up to you. To paraphrase Aristotle, "If you do the reps, you'll get the rewards." And the reps themselves are easy. In fact, they are as easy as reading the instructions at the top of the next form and filling in the blanks. This is a PDF version of the form I use for all my published analyses, and this is a great time to get used to it. The layout is the same as a baseball scoreboard, with the name of the school on the left and its final score on the right, and the only math you'll use is easier than on a 1040EZ. Also, unlike typical NPC results, my "Apples-to-Apples" method uses standard dollar amounts for common factors. This both stabilizes and enhances the accuracy of NPC results, especially for more generous colleges, allowing you and your family to make more valid comparisons. In addition to this PDF, I have included a Word version of this form for your convenience at the bottom of all the pages of this website.
Looking at the "Apples-to-Apples Template", you'll notice that standard values are already filled in for Books & Supplies, Personal Expenses, Travel Costs, and Student Work. So, you'll only need three amounts from the individual college's NPC: the amount it charges for Tuition & Fees, the amount for Room & Board, and the amount it will provide your child in Total Grants. Then you just do the addition and subtraction from left to right. For your convenience, here also is an NPC Data Sheet you and your family can use when filling out NPC's. It's ready for you and your family to fill in your answers to all the questions I was asked by all 125 colleges I analyzed this year. It's thorough, but it will help keep all your family members who fill out your NPC's "singing from the same sheet of music." It's a PDF, but there's a Word version at the bottom of this and every other page of this website.
II. ACG METHODOLOGY To assure accuracy and consistency in my comparisons, I have established two sample families, one with an income of $60,000 per year, one with an income of $40,000 per year. Full profiles for those families are in the "Input Data" Section near the top of my Examples page, and my specific 2016/2017 NPC input data for both families are in the table below. Since your NPC results will be unique to your family, your results will not be the same as the results for my sample families. Also, all the tables you will see in this website follow the same pattern, with the names of the colleges on the left, the costs and aid for those schools in the middle, and the "Remaining Balance" - what's left for parents to pay or for students and parents to borrow - on the right. The "Student Work" amount of $5,000 assumes a 25 hour per week summer job and an 8 hour per week Work Study job during the school year with both paying $10 per hour. The schools are ranked by the generosity of their financial aid programs at the given income level, with the most generous schools at the top and the least generous schools at the bottom. Finally, I never include any loans as financial aid anywhere in this site. Loans really aren't financial aid, loans are a way to defer the payment of a present cost to a later time while paying an interest fee to cover the amount of delay. So, all the financial aid you will see in this website is loan-free. Here's a table containing the input data used in all the 2016/2017 Compilations and Comparisons in this site:
III. NPC's AND EFC's Congress required Net Price Calculator programs on college websites to help parents and students sift their affordable from their non-affordable colleges early in their college searches. NPC results are required to be 97% accurate, and NPC's are a great search tool, but they are not applications for financial aid at those colleges. Your actual financial aid applications will come later, usually in January or February, after your students have decided where to apply and after they have filed their actual applications with those schools. Each of the schools where your children apply will have different requirements for their own financial aid applications, but it's likely that they will all use the results of another application you will fill out online for the US Department of Education. It's called the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance or FAFSA. Since the FAFSA is based on your total income from the previous year, it's another item intended for January and February. By the way, the Department of Education has recently established procedures that allow early FAFSA filing based on your income from the previous year, but that's really the answer to the question nobody asked. When you are in the pre-application phase of your college search, before you decide where to actually apply, you're going to sift through a lot of schools, and early filing of your FAFSA won't help you at all. Why? A. The FAFSA is free, but it's complex. And it's not anonymous, meaning it requires names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and it links to the IRS. So, many families save the FAFSA for when it's really needed. Also, the only thing the FAFSA gives you is your Expected Family Contribution, your "EFC", which is the government's estimate of what your family can afford to pay that year for that child's education. But almost all colleges include a reasonably accurate estimate of your EFC in their NPC results anyway, like it or not. B. Although your Net Price Calculator results at each school where your kids decide to apply should be within 3% of the actual financial aid offers at each college where they are ultimately accepted, your Expected Family Contribution does not have to correlate with your actual aid offers at all. Consider this: I have Compilations posted near the bottom of this page and on my Examples page listing NPC results for sample families at about 125 schools at both a middle and a lower income level. At each income level the Expected Family Contribution is exactly the same for those families at each of those schools. But the Remaining Balances - bottomline amounts for parents to pay or for the students and parents to borrow - vary among those 125 schools from nothing at all per year to over $50,000 per year. And my calculations of Expected Annual Loans at those income levels and at those schools also vary from nothing at all to over $50,000 per year. So, your NPC results - meaning your expected aid - will correlate directly with your actual aid offers, but those numbers and your EFC will only jive at your more generous college choices.
Copyright 2018, Mark Warns, All Rights Reserved
Here again are a Word version of my Apple-to-Apples template for your own college cost comparisons along with a Word version of my data input pages you can use for your own family: