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    Common Data Set:  Where People In “The Know” Go When Researching Colleges

    Q.  Do you want to have “FREE” access to the most sophisticated source of information about colleges and universities; the same source used by Independent Counselors, US News and World Report and the Fiske Guide to Colleges?  It’s known as the Common Data Set and it’s available to everyone!

    A.  The Common Data Set is organized around 11 topics: (A) general campus, (B) enrollment and persistence, (C) first-time, first-year (freshmen) admissions, (D) transfer admissions, (E) academic offerings and policies, (F) student life, (G) annual expenses, (H) financial aid, (I) instructional faculty and class size,(J) degrees conferred and (K) definitions.

    What about the “real” cost of going to this institution? There are questions for that too.

    For example in the area of ANNUAL EXPENSES, CDS asks colleges to provide the URL of the institution’s net price calculator.

    And what are the projected costs for next year? Colleges are then asked to provide academic year costs of attendance for their institution.

    FINANCIAL AID, the biggest question mark in everyone’s mind when it comes to attending a college can be researched on the college’s Common Data Set as well. 

    Questions like:  How much will you owe in loans, on an average, when you leave this institution? Does this college offer Merit Scholarships and non-need-based aid? Here you’ll find dollar amounts for how much these universities actually awarded to their students.

    Interested in knowing how to locate this kind of information about the colleges and universities on your list?  Then just search under Common Data Set for (name of the college here).

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    Abacus Out, Net Price Calculator In!

    Q.  Is there anyway to realistically compare college costs?

    A. There’s a “new law” in town and it’s calling for a Net Price Calculator to be on every college and universities’ website.

    The Net Price Calculator is a tool that you can use to estimate your “net price” to attend a particular college or university. Net price is the difference between the “sticker” price (full cost) to attend a specific college, minus any grants and scholarships for which you may be eligible. Sticker price includes direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) and indirect costs (books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses).

    The Federal government provides information about net-price for students on their College Navigator site College Navigator. Students can plug in their financial and academic information and get a customized estimate of how much they would have to pay. College Board also offers a student Net-Price Calculator comparison program under their “Higher Ed Services” section.

    As always, it is important for students and their families to be cautious when using the estimates they calculate. Some colleges using their own calculators may include potential savings not on the DOE template (such as work-study) to get a lower net cost.

    Remember, “financial fit” is just one of many factors you will want to consider in choosing a college!