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Home » College Admissions » The Net Price Calculator (NPC) is live: Is it time to say, I told you so? #highered, #admissions

The Net Price Calculator (NPC) is live: Is it time to say, I told you so? #highered, #admissions

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Augustana College, like every college nationwide that receives federal funds, launched its NPC prior to October 29, 2011 to comply with the federal mandate to do so. As many of you know, I have been a skeptic about this since the beginning.

Here are a couple of the pieces I’ve written and some of the interviews I’ve given on the topic:

Money Talk

Net Price v. Net Worth

New tool will give clearer picture on college costs

Net cost calculators help estimate college expenses

Now that our Net Price Calculator is live, we can begin to take a look at the results and maybe I can begin saying, “I told you so.”

Before I provide early analysis of our results, it is important to acknowledge how the “advocates” for the NPC will react.

First, they say that your calculator has to be easy. The fewer questions the better. (Easier said than done if you want to provide accurate results).

Next, they say that your calculator has to be readily accessible. The higher up in the website navigation, then better. (This is a matter of choice and we’ve chosen accessibility rather than hiding it).

Finally, they say that we need to be patient.  Pent up demand for this service and information is what drove this initiative and we need to wait until prospective students and parents find it. (I am impatient by my nature).

All of these arguments are good, but let’s take a good look at this.

Since going live with our NPC (a few days before the deadline) the following has happened:

  • 279 people have started our NPC
  • 156 people have completed our NPC and received the estimate (56%, which means 44% did not have the information or got fed up)
  • 12 people provided contact information and asked for communication with the college (a measly 7% want to engage in dialogue about this important part of choosing a college)
  • 7 of those who provided contact information were “stealth” (previously unknown students who were not in our recruitment database). I wonder how many of the other 272 who started or completed the NPC are also stealth shoppers? Pretty hard to recruit them if we don’t know who they are!

Let me respond to those the “advocates” first.

  1. Make it easy: We chose the questions we felt we critical to providing an accurate picture of out of pocket cost. I don’t know which ones we can eliminate without diminishing returns in accuracy.
  2. Make it accessible: We did a “soft launch” of our NPC by including a news story on our homepage to get some visibility and we list it on in a prime location on the admissions landing page. I don’t know we can do more…short of flashing, spinning globes.
  3. Be patient: It’s only been 10 days, so we probably do need to be patient. But, we have 30,000 prospects and fewer than 300 have completed it. Is there really demand for this?

So, are there any I told you sos here?

I don’t know, but I must say that I am discouraged by the large number of families who chose to navigate this part of the process in anonymity. I am also disheartened that 44% of those who begin the process chose not to complete.

I would love to know what’s happening out there with other colleges.

If you know what’s up at your institution and want to share I would be grateful.

W. Kent Barnds (a.k.a. bowtieadmission)

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