The Columns

Washington and Lee Unveils Net-Price Calculator to Help Prospective Students

— by on November 8th, 2011

Washington and Lee University joined all colleges and universities in unveiling a new net-price calculator on its website this fall, as required by federal legislation. Prospective students and families can now enter their financial information into the calculator and find out how much need-based financial aid they can expect to receive from the University.

The government based the requirement on a desire for greater transparency when it comes to what families will actually be paying for college.

“I think that the government’s idea was good, and that it is important for families to understand all of the costs associated with attending college as well as all of the financial aid that is available to offset those costs,” said James Kaster, director of financial aid at W&L.

Although the calculator is still in the early stages of implementation, Kaster believes it will be a useful tool. He cautions, however, that it is not a substitute for the personal attention that W&L provides prospective students in the areas of admissions and financial aid.

“Our calculator is as accurate as we could possibly make it, so that we can provide students and parents who use it with a very good estimate of the type of need-based financial aid that they will receive,” Kaster said. “Our goal wasn’t to make it the simplest calculator possible, or the most complex. It was to be as accurate as we could be and to reflect the way in which we would evaluate need-based aid.

“W&L’s need-based financial-aid packages are very generous. For someone who is concerned about whether or not they can afford the University, the calculator could reassure them. We offer generous assistance to families with need, meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need with a combination of grant and work study.”

Kaster added that the more time families put into the process, and the more complete and accurate they are in entering their income and assets, the more realistic the estimate will be.

“I have seen some articles that indicate certain segments may not bother to use these calculators because they are too complex,” said Kaster. “But I would encourage people not to be intimidated. Unless you have an extremely complex financial picture, it is not something to be afraid of.”

In a normal case, Kaster said, it will take someone about 12 minutes to complete the calculator.

The one concern Kaster has is that people may use the calculator and decide whether or not even to consider applying based on only the calculator’s results.

“We want people to be aware that we are always available for personal consultation,” said Kaster. “This new tool will not change that. Using the calculator would be a great first step. But then people should contact us and tell us about their results, including questions and concerns that might have been raised.”

The net-price calculator is part of a new financial-aid site that provides comprehensive information, including a frequently asked questions page. The website is go.wlu.edu/financialaid, and the calculator is at wlu.studentaidcalculator.com.

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
jhanna@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8459