Blog #1

Net Price Calculators Can Do So Much More—If You Let Them

Taking Your NPC from Compliance Tool to Enrollment Driver—Part I

A Blog Series Featuring Matt Summer, CampusLogic Regional Director

Do you think of your net price calculator as something you HAVE to have—just to satisfy compliance requirements? What if we told you that using the free Department of Education calculator may be doing you more of a disservice than if you had none?

In this six-part blog series, Matt Summer, CampusLogic Regional Director, shares strategies that will put your NPC right into the middle of your school’s most important recruitment initiatives. With three decades of experience in higher education, Summer has seen that when institutions use net price calculators effectively, outcomes include better student engagement, more informed students and families, enhanced financial literacy, and improved “stickiness” from college search through enrollment. Data derived from NPC usage can also provide valuable insights for future recruitment strategies.

Is Your Net Price Calculator Really Serving Students?

College tuition has risen more than 400% over the past 30 years, making today’s prospective students and their families more concerned than ever over sticker-shock, loan debt, and higher education’s return on investment. They’re also much more tech-savvy, data-driven, and informed.

That’s why, beginning in 2011, net price calculators were federally mandated to appear on college websites. In theory, it’s a great idea—creating cost transparency so students could make more informed decisions, Summer notes. But users quickly discovered that the free calculators didn’t include institutional or merit aid—and were nothing like the personalized online cost calculators available for travel, mortgages, or cars. In response, many schools developed their own or reached out to third-party vendors.

NPCs Often Confuse Students

Yet, even with a more customized NPC, the experience is generally long and tedious, requiring prospective students to answer dozens of questions about family income. Multiply that by three (or more) times during the typical college search, and the process of determining the cost of attendance and available aid at each school becomes a mind-numbing exercise. Students often give up—or blindly select a school that ‘sounded like it was cheaper.’ Recent studies show that this information deficit is keeping many qualified and highly desired students out of college.

“That’s no way to gain applications or grow your enrollment,” Summer says. “Your NPC can do so much more—and should play a much bigger role in your school’s recruitment initiatives. Making it engaging, mobile, and a branded extension of your institution will go a long way toward helping you reach enrollment goals.”

Up Next in Our Series

We’re taking a deeper dive into a range of best practices and valuable suggestions you might not have previously considered trying with an NPC. In our next article, Summer offers tips for exceptional student engagement.

Spoiler alert: Don’t bury your NPC five clicks deep on your website.

Read part II of the series >

Meet ClearCost, our industry-leading net price calculator >