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How Does Your Net Price Calculator Compare? - Monday Musings

By Jennifer Wick on Oct 31, 2011

The Net Price Calculator is here – are you prepared for the “trick” or “treat”?

Tags: financial aid


Happy Halloween! Know what’s really scary? Not knowing how your Net Price Calculator compares with your competitors’!

Compare your NPC with your competitors!October 29 has come and gone, and the much anticipated (and sometimes dreaded) deadline has arrived when families now have the ability to compare institutions based on “net price.” Meeting the compliance date does not mean you can breathe a sigh of relief and move on. How does your clearly labeled NPC stack up against the competition? Now’s the time to run some test cases through your own calculator as well as your competitors’, and note the differences! Try at least five cases: high quality/high need, high quality/low need, average quality/average need, low quality/high need, and low quality/low need.

How do the results compare? Are you at a competitive advantage or disadvantage, taking publically available quality measures (like US News rankings, average SAT/ACT score, acceptance rate) into consideration? Are your admission recruiters ready to answer families’ questions about why their net price at your institution is different than at your competitors? Are senior administrators prepared for similar questions from trustees?

In addition to the net price results, here are some other points of comparison to evaluate:

  • Simplicity vs. complexity: completion time, number of questions, appropriateness of instructions;
  • Presentation of results: ranges in addition to specific dollar amounts, general vs. specific awards, how unmet need is portrayed;
  • Affordability messages: return on investment information on results page.


The Net Price Calculator is here – are you prepared for the “trick” or “treat”? Now is the time to ensure that your NPC is a recruiting asset, not a liability.

Image © iStockphoto.


Jennifer WickAbout the author: Jennifer Wick joined the Scannell & Kurz team as an Enrollment Management Consultant in May 2011 before becoming Vice President in July 2014. She provides consulting on a wide range of enrollment management topics from pricing and financial aid strategies, retention initiatives, and recruitment planning to operations in student service offices. Jen comes to S&K from Clarkson University where she served for eleven years in enrollment roles, nine of those years as Director of New Student Financial Assistance. Her experience encompasses both financial aid and admissions responsibilities, specializing in balancing financial aid strategies with enrollment targets and retention concerns. She has conducted enrollment data analysis, managed regional territories, and created successful financial aid strategies for targeted demographics. In addition, Jen has a keen interest in retention, including predictive model development to identify at-risk first-year students.

She is a regular contributor to University Business and speaks at national conferences such as annual meetings of NASFAA, ACT Enrollment Planners, Aligning Experts Summit, etc.

Jen earned a B.S. and M.S. in Physics, both from Clarkson University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


Comments (2)

  1. Rodney Morrison

    Rodney Morrison
    Nov 09, 2011 at 09:58 AM

    For schools like mine (Rutgers Univ.) who do not meet full need, I do worry about a couple things:
    1. The decision was made to have a more accurate estimate which means that we ask a lot of questions. It can up take to 10-15 min to fill it out which is very, very long. It will be interesting to see how many start, but don't finish it.
    2. For those who don't like the result, given there is no human element, will we lose students to a similiar costing school who's calculator able to communicate their results in a more affordable manner?
    3. Will this place more of a burden on the fin aid office?

    I guess we'll find out soon enough.....

  2. Jennifer Wick

    Jennifer Wick
    Nov 14, 2011 at 02:41 PM

    Rodney, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the implications of the NPC. I think you're right, only time will tell regarding completion rates, and the potential added burden for the aid office. A Director of Financial Aid recently shared with S&K that she has had the two most unpleasant conversations of her career with parents in the last week, as a result of NPC comparisons. It's important to know how your competitors' NPC results are displayed, and to be prepared for potentially difficult conversations.


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