Many colleges continue to lag on cost transparency

educationdive | March 28, 2019

Some four-year public and private colleges fail to meet baseline requirements for providing students with access to net price calculators for college costs, according to a study of 80 institutions from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education's Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (Penn AHEAD). The data was collected in 2018.For two colleges, one private and one public, the researchers could not find a calculator, which are legally required by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act.At other colleges, researchers found information that was "misleading or incomplete." Others used "out-of-date data, ignored real costs of attendance ... asked students to estimate their own costs, suggested that students can reduce costs by 'spending conservatively' on food, and presented loans as no different than grants," the authors wrote. Net price calculators are meant to make the complex costs of college more transparent and straightforward for students. As the study's authors note, "Students who overestimate costs might not apply to schools they can actually afford, and students who underestimate costs may drop out of college for financial reasons before attaining a degree."