College implements simpler college cost calculator

September 30, 2015 by Francesca Paris, News Editor

My inTuition uses data collected on financial aid in previous years to create tuition estimates. Photo courtesy of Office of Admissions.

My inTuition uses data collected on financial aid in previous years to create tuition estimates. Photo courtesy of Office of Admissions.

The College recently adopted My inTuition, a college cost calculator intended to provide an accurate estimate of available financial aid and to reduce misconceptions about the price families will pay for college.

My inTuition, which can be completed in seven steps, aims to be more efficient and easier to use than the College Board’s Net Price Calculator.

Phillip Levine, professor of economics at Wellesley College, invented the tool to encourage better communication about the cost of college. Wellesley launched the calculator in 2013.

William Dudley, provost of the College, said that admissions officers became aware of the tool when Wellesley representatives started to share it at college fairs across the country. Last year the College hired Levine as a consultant to develop its own version of the calculator.

“The College Board’s calculator is a good tool,” Dudley said, “but it requires having a lot of information available, and it’s daunting.” To receive an estimate from the Net Price Calculator, a student must have their most recent federal tax returns and bank statements available.

My inTuition, on the other hand, only asks for a basic set of easily accessible information. Dudley believes that My inTuition’s simplicity will encourage students to finish the estimation process and better understand the true cost of attending the College.

My inTuition, which is available on the College’s admissions website, asks students a dozen questions about their status as a U.S. citizen, their family’s income and savings, the value of their house and whether or not they have siblings attending college.

The tool then uses a regression from the pool of data collected from thousands of families that have received financial aid at the College to estimate the cost of college based on those variables.

The final result is an estimate of family contribution, student work-study, expected student loan and scholarship. The calculator offers a best estimate and a range, with high and low estimates.

Joy St. John, Wellesley’s dean of admission and financial aid, said in a press release by the College that Wellesley hopes to spread the word about My inTuition in order to prevent misconceptions among potential applicants.

“All families benefit from having an earlier understanding of cost in the college selection process,” she said, “but this tool can be particularly helpful to students from low- and middle-income families who may have a misconception that we, and many other elite colleges, are not affordable.”

In 2011, the federal government mandated that colleges and universities make a price calculator available to prospective students.

In addition to Wellesley, the University of Virginia has also implemented this tool.

“We wouldn’t want a misperception about cost to be a barrier to anyone who is interested,” Dudley said. “We want any kid who thinks Williams might be a good fit to apply.”

As of now, the College does not have plans to completely stop using the College Board’s calculator.

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