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Have you seen the Progressive Insurance commercial with the “Name Your Price” tool? If you haven’t, the premise is that Flo (the spokeswoman) gives the price scanning gun to the customer to let them name their price for insurance. In actuality, when a customer approaches Progressive about getting Insurance coverage, they get to pick and choose certain features of their policy until the price is where they want it. What if I told you that you can use the “Name Your Price” tool when you are shopping for college? Okay, not exactly, but the price that any college or university advertises is very rarely the price that you will pay. Don’t let sticker shock deter you from researching a college.









In 2016, the average discount rate for an incoming Freshman was 48.6%! That is like a Black Friday sale! So why do the schools advertise such high costs if they aren’t going to collect it? Because some families still have to pay full price (but I’m writing this to make sure you are NOT one of those families). At first glance, private college A might have double the sticker price of state university B, but things aren’t always what they seem. Many private schools have large endowments and lots of money to give, while most state schools are funded entirely by their state government. Some state schools do have large endowments, but they have a lot more students to financially support, almost 3-1 on average. A big state school may not be able to meet as much of your need as a small private college. Another thing to remember is that there are two types of aid: gift aid and self-help. Gift aid is just that, a gift. It is in the form of a grant or a scholarship and you don’t pay it back. Self-help is student loans and work study programs. Self help will factor in to your “net price” because technically you’re still paying.









So what can you do to figure out how much a school will cost your family?

  • Start by figuring out your E.F.C. That’s your Expected Family Contribution. There are tons of calculators out there like this one.
  • Once you know your EFC, head over to and start your research. You can determine what a school charges, how much need they meet, what % of each type of aid it is (and almost any other financial data you’d like to collect).

Just remember that picking the right school should always be the first goal. A student at the right school is more likely to graduate in 4 years with a degree which will save a lot more money than gift aid or self-help! 

Authored by PJ Horan

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