As we all know, the Higher Education Opportunity Act requires all colleges and universities that receive Title IV funds to have a fully-functioning net price calculator (NPC) available on their Web sites by the end of October 2011. To fulfill this requirement, many campuses are now beginning either to develop their own calculators or purchase them from vendors. But this requirement begs a larger question: how will campuses use these net price calculator in their recruitment process?
My own experience as the parent of a college student illustrates why this is an important question (and why the federal government required colleges to post NPCs). When my 21-year-old was moving through the college selection process a few years ago, I remember how he would come home bright-eyed with a new college on his list, eager to learn more about that campus. The first step in our search process—and a big factor in determining if my son would inquire for more information—was to visit the school’s Web site. During our search we would look at majors, co- and extra-curricular activities, admissions requirements, and of course cost. We essentially looked for answers to 10 to 12 most commonly asked questions students have about a campus. When I compare our college search with the students in the Noel-Levitz 2010 E-Expectations report, we probably fell into the group who visited 10 to 14 campuses throughout the search process, so we repeated this procedure a fair number of times.
One of the most frustrating things was that answers to our questions about cost were often elusive at best. This crucial piece of our college search was often hard to find online.