Ah, Spring is in full swing, and summer will be here before you know it. High school seniors can almost hear the sound of "Pomp and Circumstance" already...For now, though, many students are preoccupied with college decision-making. It's about that time of the year when mailboxes are flooded with envelopes from universities, hopefully containing the phrase, "Congratulations! You've been accepted to [insert school name here]!" Once you've gotten all of your acceptances, the hard part starts: picking ONE school. These days, this decision is based heavily on finances. Which school will leave the smallest dent in your bank account? Luckily, a new financial aid comparison tool has just been released to help take some of the guess work out of that mystery.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just launched a new comparison tool, which, upon entering your financial aid award offers from each school offering you acceptance, should present an accurate side-by-side look at the impact each institution will have one your wallet (and future education debt). At the most basic level, students can simply enter college names (up to 3 at a time) to see estimated costs (tuition, room & board, etc.), the average amount of gift aid received (grants and scholarships), the total amount of debt to expect and how much this debt amounts to in monthly payments post-college.
It's after the individualized information is entered that this new tool really shines. Inputting info from the letters each school sent, including expected family contribution (EFC), gives a broader picture. Comparing the schools will give you the "sticker price," but it will also take into account the estimated aid you have been offered, so a $50,000 a year college becomes a $30,000 a year school. Looking more in-depth at each institution also gives students an idea of the schools overall--say, what the graduation rate is, for instance. So it helps you peek ahead into how successful you think you can be at a school.
The information you get here is reputable, too. The tool uses only info from government statistics, and it covers more than 7,500 colleges (university and community college) and 2-year vocational schools. It's worth a shot to take this new financial aid comparison tool for a spin, as it offers a more individualized look at paying for college than does your average financial aid calculator.
As you prepare to make an important education decision, consider giving this a try. If nothing else, it helps you learn more about the colleges you're interested in. And for more advice on college financial aid, head on over to our solutions center!