The Columns

W&L Adopts MyinTuition, a Fast, Free Tool to Help Students and Parents Estimate College Costs

— by on April 19th, 2017

“We see MyinTuition as particularly useful for families early in their college search, especially to differentiate the ‘sticker price’ of a private college from what their family will actually pay, after financial aid.”

It is a rite for any parent with a child approaching college. Their children are bright high school sophomores and juniors so they search for the best schools. Some look at the costs and recoil, thinking that the price is more than they can afford.

In 2013, Wellesley College introduced a fast, user-friendly tool that has given families a more accurate way to gauge costs while factoring in financial aid. Williams College and University of Virginia adopted Wellesley’s tool in 2015. Since then, applications at Wellesley, Williams, and U.Va are up, with about 90% of that increase coming from students planning to apply for financial aid.

MyinTuition has proved so successful that starting today, 12 more schools, including Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., are adopting the tool. This broader reach means that thousands of other parents and their children may pursue education paths that they might have otherwise ignored for fear that the costs were out of reach. The tool is made available on each of the college’s websites, as well as on myintuition.org.

The 15 schools that offer MyinTuition are:

MyinTuition was driven by the knowledge that too few students apply to top-notch schools because they assume they cannot afford them. Since a high-quality college education is an important pathway to upward economic mobility in the United States, this is a critical issue across the country.

In 2011, the federal government mandated that colleges and universities offer a “net price calculator” to provide prospective students with an estimate of the cost of enrollment and financial aid possibilities. These often ask parents to answer a dizzying array of questions with detailed information about family finances, including information from tax returns.

MyinTuition does not intimidate. It informs parents through a user-friendly process that asks six basic financial questions in order to provide personalized estimates of what it would cost a family to send their child to a particular college.

“Families look at the price and walk away without thinking about financial aid possibilities because the assumption is that the cost is too high,” said Phillip B. Levine, an economics professor at Wellesley College who developed MyinTuition along with Wellesley’s Katharine Corman. With MyinTuition, parents and prospective students can look closer and see a clearer picture of what a college education will cost them at a top school. “They might see that they don’t have to walk away,” explained Levine. “Their son or daughter can go to the school that is the best fit for them, regardless of the sticker price.”

It takes the average user about three minutes to complete and gives parents a breakdown of the estimated costs paid by the family, work-study, and loan estimates, in addition to grant assistance provided by the institution.

“This helps bring more students from low and moderate income families into the stream of students flowing into the top schools in this country,” said Levine. “It takes down a formidable barrier.”

In doing so, MyinTuition can help colleges diversify their student enrollments. “We see MyinTuition as particularly useful for families early in their college search, especially to differentiate the ‘sticker price’ of a private college from what their family will actually pay, after financial aid,” said Sally Stone Richmond, vice president for admissions and financial aid at Washington and Lee. “Just like an admissions profile offers students a sense of the academic qualities a college seeks, MyinTuition gives families a means of understanding their potential financial expectations prior to applying.”

“As a key part of our efforts to promote Washington and Lee’s affordability, we are pleased to include MyinTuition as a secure, efficient, informative tool for prospective students and families to estimate their expected college costs,” said James Kaster, Washington and Lee’s director of financial aid.

More than 125,000 estimates have been provided at Wellesley, Williams and the University of Virginia so far.

According to Joy St. John, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Wellesley, where all applications are up this year by 17 percent, MyinTuition helps schools fulfill their commitments to access, affordability, and transparency around college costs. “We want even more students and families to realize that top colleges are within reach for any qualified student, regardless of their financial situation,” she said.