Powerful Tools to Help Measure College Value

It is never too early to start figuring out how to pay for a college education. In fact, the earlier you start, the more you will learn about the terminology, types of support, and methods involved. Here are three powerful tools that will help you determine the cost of education and the expected returns involved with degrees from various colleges:

Net Price Calculators

All college and university websites have an online net price calculator that lets students and families see what attendance at the college may cost. The calculators use family financial information and the students’ academic profiles to determine aid and cost of attendance. These calculators are required by the government and are free to use at any time. It is important to remember, however, that the net price calculators only provide a rough estimate. In addition, if a number seems too good to be true, call the financial aid office of the school and discuss your concerns.

Loan Calculator

If you, like many others, will need to rely on loans to cover your college expenses. Take the time in advance to determine how much you will be able to afford to pay monthly. The loan calculator at FinAid.org can help you determine an estimate of your monthly payments based on loan fees, repayment terms, and interest rates. This is a good tool to use when evaluating and comparing financial aid packages from several schools. Ideally, you should aim for a debt load that will take no more than 10% of your gross monthly income after graduation.

Earnings Comparisons

Another excellent tool for mapping out costs is the college comparison tool by NerdWallet. This tool lets students and their parents compare colleges based on the percent of graduates who find employment as well as their average earnings. Why is this important? Since a computer science graduate from one school may earn $60,000, while a graduate with the same degree from a different school may earn $18,000 a year, this can play a large part in the amount of debt you can comfortably assume. Knowing what you can expect to earn as a graduate is an important consideration when determining which school provides the best value.

As college costs keep rising and the economy struggles, it is more important than ever to fully understand your college costs, the aid that is available to you, and how much you can expect to make after graduation. These tools can give you a more fully-informed idea of what lies ahead so you can choose the school that is best for you.

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