Net Price Calculators: An Overview

In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended on October 29, 2011, each postsecondary institution participating in the Title IV federal student aid programs is required to post a net price calculator on its website.  The caluculator, using institutional data, should provide estimated net price information to current and prospective students and their families based on a student’s individual circumstances.

The calculator also should allow students to calculate an estimated net price of attendance at the institution (defined as cost of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid) based on what similar students paid in a previous year. The net price calculator is required for all Title IV institutions enrolling full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate students.

Institutions may meet this requirement by using the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator template or by developing their own customized calculator that includes, at a minimum, the same elements as the Department’s template.

Minimum Required Elements

Institutions that choose to customize or build their own net price calculator must include, at a minimum, the following input and output elements:

Input elements must include:

  • Data elements to approximate the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), such as income, number in family, and dependency status or factors that estimate dependency status*

*An institution may use either Federal Methodology or Institutional Methodology to approximate the student’s EFC.

Output elements must include:

  • Estimated total cost of attendance;
  • Estimated tuition and fees;
  • Estimated room and board;
  • Estimated books and supplies;
  • Estimated other expenses (personal expenses, transportation, etc.);
  • Estimated total grant aid;
  • Estimated net price;
  • Percent of the cohort (full-time, first-time students) that received grant aid; and
  • Caveats and disclaimers, as indicated in the HEA.
More information is available from the U.S. Department of Education:
Latest Net Price Calculator Information  (January 2014)
Net Price Calculator Information Center.  
Net Price Calculator Template


The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 required the Secretary of Education to develop an individual net price calculator using the same "net price" definition included in the law.  The Department published the calculator on October 29, 2009.  Each institution participating in the Title IV federal student aid programs was then required within two year to post a net price calculator on its website - either the one developed by the Education Department or a comparable one developed by the institution - by October 29, 2011.

NAICU provided a range of materials to support institutions in their effort to develop and post net price calculators including: