Ten Things to Consider

  • Institutional capacity - human capital, technology, knowledge of financial aid, need analysis, regulations. Deadline for posting a net price calculator on your website is October 29, 2011.
  • Degree of Accuracy of Estimate - Run a current sample of students through the NCES's Net Price Calculator and compare to the actual aid package this sample of students received - how big a disparity is there? Will the disparity discourage application/enrollment? Will the differential be significant enough to create anger versus the actual aid package awarded? What is an acceptable degree of variance?
  • What is the appropriate balance between accuracy of the estimate and complexity (for the user) of the calculator? Reminder: customized calculators must include all of the elements of the NCES's calculator - you can add to their template elements, but not delete any of them! 
  • What data categories in the template are producing the largest variance/affect the net price the most? Likely suspects: EFC methodology (federal vs. institution), state aid programs, institution aid programs, need-based vs. merit-based grants, scholarship aid.
  • Do you want to include work study and loan estimates? How should you present this information - will you be perceived as trying to mislead students by lowering the "bottom line" estimate provided, providing an "illusion of affordability"? What are the public relations implications? Reminder: these elements cannot be included in your net price calculator template as data input; list as separate line items.
  • If contracting out, who owns the data? Is that important to you? Do you let the user know they are leaving your site (if applicable)? Do you communicate to them who owns or has access to the information they are submitting and what will be done with it? Some vendors want to own the data for use in lead generation and marketing. What are the legal liabilities and/or public relations implications for your institution?
  • Can you ensure the security of the data being input (or can your vendor)?
  • If asking for information not directly involved in the calculation of net price, how do you make it clear that submitting this information is optional. Why do you need it? How will it be used?
  • How will the net price calculator method you choose reflect on your institution versus peer institutions?
  • What does your calculator tell the public about your institution's values and aid decision-making process?