Simplifying Estimates of College Costs


This paper proposes an extension of Wellesley College’s recently introduced Quick College Cost Estimator to other higher education institutions. The estimator is designed to overcome the sticker shock that many students experience when the only price of attendance they know is the stated level of tuition. The lack of information regarding the true cost of attendance often acts as a major impediment for students in the college decision-making process. The purpose of the estimator is to provide greater clarity regarding the true cost of attendance, increasing access for students from families that are less affluent. It provides prospective students with an estimate of what they might expect to pay based on just six basic financial inputs; students need just a few minutes to complete it. It is a tool that could easily be used at many other colleges and universities through collaboration with the College Board and affected universities. The ultimate goal is to allow students and their families to make more-informed choices about where they should apply to college.