Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Average Net Price By Income Can (And Can't) Tell Us About College Costs

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    Students at Purdue participate in an environmental engineering class, which has been redesigned to be more interactive and student-driven.

    Here’s a new tool Indiana families can use to help estimate the cost of college. The Federal Education Budget Project has added net price by income level to its database of U.S. colleges and universities. Clare McCann of Ed Money Watch explains:

    Net price by income level can be a valuable tool for potential students because it estimates what potential students might actually pay to attend a particular school. Rather than simply the listed price of attendance, net price accounts for the average federal, state, local, and institutional scholarships and grant aid students at the school receive by income bracket. Those subsidies reduce the price of attendance and provide a more realistic estimate of students’ likely costs.

    The figures include fees, books and housing in the estimate, not just tuition. Generally, a family must make less than $30,000 a year to qualify as low income.

    But while the data might be helpful to a low-income student trying to compare the cost of two schools in Indiana or elsewhere in the country, it still doesn’t answer important questions about how much needy students pay in proportion to their peers.

    “When schools report net price by income level, it only includes those students who receive federal Title IV grants or loans,” writes McCann. “Meanwhile, institutions report overall net price for students who receive grants or scholarships from any source.”

    So a low-income student who doesn’t receive any federal aid might pay more than net price would suggest. But a low-income student who got a hefty scholarship might pay less.

    What the numbers can tell us is how well individual institutions have kept the cost of attendance down for these students, McCann explains. For example, the average net price by income of attending Indiana University increased from $3,383 in 2009 to $3,637 in 2010, the last year data was available. In-state tuition over the same period increased $384.

    Here’s how some other Indiana schools stacked up:

    • The average net price by income of attending Purdue University increased from $5,523 in 2009 to $7,020 in 2010. The number of students receiving Pell Grants increased from 5,336 to 6,513.
    • Low income students paid, on average, $9,071 to attend the University of Notre Dame in 2010. That’s an increase of $1,804 from 2009. In total, students at Notre Dame received $1.3 million more in Pell Grants than they did the year prior.
    • Ball State kept costs relatively stable for low-income students in 2010. On average, they paid $7,411 to attend, $59 than the year before. In the four years between 2006 and 2010, the amount students received in Pell Grants doubled, from $9.2 million to $20.4 million.
    • Indiana State University also saw a slight dip in the average net price by income, from $7,461 in 2009 to $7,379 in 2010. The average federal loan increased from $5,118 to $5,874 over the same period.
    • On average, low-income students paid Indiana Wesleyan $24,762 in 2010, an increase of about 9 percent over the year before. About 70 percent of students received federal loans.
    • The average net price of attending Ivy Tech actually decreased for low income students, from $9,712 in 2009 to $8,641 in 2010. The share of students receiving federal loans increased from 28 to 42 percent.


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