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UI officials launch tuition calculator

BY JORDYN REILAND | OCTOBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Prospective University of Iowa students and their parents may be able to have a more accurate estimate of college costs.

A new financial-aid calculator, which colleges must launch nationwide Saturday, will provide students easier ways to calculate costs.

The UI launched the Net Price Calculator on Tuesday.

"It gives our students a full picture," said Beth Cole, UI director of systems in the Office of Financial Aid. "Everything you should expect to see as a student."

The calculator was prompted by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act. Colleges that receive funds from Title IV student-aid programs must provide the calculator online.

UI officials spent $4,500 on the software, said Mark Warner, the director of UI Student Financial Aid, and the calculator will likely be an annual expense.

Officials believe the calculator will provide an accurate assessment of what a student will pay but have made it clear the assessment is simply an estimate.

"The numbers you get out of the calculator depend on the financial information that is put in," said Cynthia Seyfer, the director of student employment in the Financial Aid Office.

The calculator asks academic questions about the student such as ACT scores and GPA and asks about parent information, including income and taxes. The calculator also factors in student employment and loans.

Some UI perspective students are taping into the new tool.

Christine Dancel, a senior at Mundelein High School in Mundelein, Ill., said the tuition prices are important factors in selecting what college to go to.

"I heard about the calculator at a college open house, and it sounds pretty efficient," she said. "It's a good idea to shed some light to the financial aspect of attending college for students in their search."

Her mother, Thelma Dancel, intends to use the calculator.

"As a parent, it shows me what I can expect for my child's tuition, without the assumptions made from general costs that I have heard at open houses and college tours," she said.

Cole said the UI purchased a financial calculator from College Board and adapted it to meet the needs of the university.

Universities have the option to buy a software from a program or create their own as long as it meets minimum standards set by the U.S. Department of Education.

Jane Glickman, press officer for the Education Department, said the intended purpose of the calculator is to provide an accurate information to current and prospective students.

"We provide a template they can use based on our federal regulations, but they are free to create their own," Glickman said.

But there are some requirements, including estimated tuition and fees, estimated room and board, and estimated total price of attendance.

Though the calculator is aimed at first-year undergraduate and transfer students, Seyfer said, all students can use it.

"Our hope is that students will use the calculator to see how affordable school can be," she said. "And what they can do to improve their school resources."


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