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Dec. 8, 2011 Volume 33, No. 15

New online calculator helps estimate cost of attendance


Household income, age, residency taken into consideration

Prospective MU students and their families can now estimate the cost of attending Mizzou in about five minutes. In mid-October, the MU Student Financial Aid office launched an online net price calculator that takes into consideration individual variables such as household income, number of siblings in college and in-state tuition eligibility. It uses median averages of similar students from the previous year to figure the net cost of college for one year.

Nicholas Prewett, interim director of student financial aid, is quick to point out that these calculations are only a rough estimate of the total amount of funding that is required for each individual student.

For instance, the site figures in the average amount of grant money for incoming freshmen, including both merit and need-based aid. Prewett emphasized that because these are just averages, some students will receive more, and some will receive less.

“We have some people getting angry that they don’t receive as much as the average,” Prewett said. “Some people really like it, but we’ve had mixed feedback.”

Mizzou’s implementation of a net price calculator was in response the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, a federal legislation that required institutions to provide transparent information on the affordability of college.

Mizzou’s particular brand of calculator is one of the most basic, Prewett said. The university used a template provided by the Department of Education to create the site. Other colleges have built their own or have used third party designers, and some include features such as the amount of money it would save to live at home or buy used books.

“We liked the simplicity of it,” Prewett said in reference to Mizzou’s approach. Departments of admissions, financial aid and the university registrar, as well as an enrollment management group and provost’s staff all took part in the selection of which model to use. The MU net price calculator takes about five minutes to complete, while others can take as long as 15 minutes.

“The Department of Education version was free, easy to understand, and we thought it best represented the way we wanted to present our financial aid information at this point,” said Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management. She said after a few months, the team will evaluate the calculator to ascertain that it is meeting the needs of prospective students.

“If there are any concerns,” she said, “we will reassess it at that point.”

— Megan Cassidy