Estimating the Cost of College

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Compare College Costs: A Tool to Help You Compare the Actual Price of College

The cost of college is not limited to tuition and fees. When calculating the price of attending any college or university, you should consider all aspects, like the cost of attendance, scholarships and grants, loans, and the net cost.

Use this interactive tool to divide costs, gift aid, and loans to create a simple side-by-side comparison.

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Remember: multiplying by four does not reflect your cost of attendance through graduation.

Yearly tuition and educational cost increases, one-time gift aid, program length or costs, loan terms, and other factors may influence your actual final cost. When comparing colleges and universities based on cost, try outlining costs, gift aid, and loans in a side-by-side comparison.

Keep in mind that colleges, universities, and educational institutions may have different definitions of cost, including: sticker price, net cost, and net price. These definitions are based on those provided by the US Department of Education.

  • Sticker Price: the cost posted on college or university webpages and materials.
  • Net Cost: the amount of money needed to pay for college after subtracting all financial aid.
  • Net Price: the amount a college or university will actually cost you. It is the sum your educational expenses minus gift aid (money that doesn’t have to be repaid). This is the amount you should use to compare offers.

Contact college and university financial aid offices to get a more accurate estimate of your complete cost of attendance for the length of your program.

Financial Aid FAQs

My Journey On-Demand Session

For most students and parents, calculating the cost of college is a primary and stressful factor in determining which school is the right school.

This session will help you gain the clarity to make confident decisions by learning about the financial aid process, including timelines and major action points, as well as how to find a wealth of information from the Federal Student Aid website. 

Learn More About Paying for College

ACT provides comprehensive college planning resources to help you make informed decisions about your educational and professional path. Explore our paying for college resources to gain valuable insights on financial aid, scholarship tips and much more!