College Cost Estimator FAQs

Getting Started

What colleges are included in the College Cost Estimator?
  • Our College Cost Estimator includes all US 4-year public, private and for-profit colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid.

How do I figure out when my child will attend college?
  • Use this look-up table to decide what year your child will typically start college:

           Newborn:           Fall 2041
           1-Year-Old:        Fall 2040
           2-Year-Old:        Fall 2039
           3-Year-Old:        Fall 2038
           4-Year-Old:        Fall 2037
           5-Year-Old:        Fall 2036
           6-Year-Old:        Fall 2035
           7-Year-Old:        Fall 2034
           8-Year-Old:        Fall 2033
           9-Year-Old:        Fall 2032
           10-Year-Old:      Fall 2031
           11-Year-Old:       Fall 2030
           12-Year-Old:      Fall 2029
           13-Year-Old:      Fall 2028
           14-Year-Old:      Fall 2027
           15-Year-Old:      Fall 2026
           16-Year-Old:      Fall 2025
           17-Year-Old:      Fall 2024
           18-Year-Old:      Fall 2023
           19-Year-Old:      Fall 2022


Why do you ask for my email address?
  • We would like to provide special offers available based on your user input on our College Cost Estimator so that we can help you with your college financial planning and give you more personalized recommendations.

What is included in the estimates of college pricing?
  • In regards to college pricing data, all but the Tuition & Fees Only Price include the entire cost of attendance -  tuition, fees, room and board, books and personal expenses.  When the numbers indicate Net Price, they subtract free money such as merit and need-based scholarships and grants from the cost of attendance. All this data comes from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

How does this planner estimate future college pricing?

Your Financial Profile 

Do I have to include all my savings and investment information in the savings question? 
  • No.  We ask that users only add the amount of savings that student and family members have designated for college savings like 529 plans and other accounts. Do not include home equity or retirement.

Do you calculate future savings from my reported cash contributions?
  • No. The College Cost Estimator uses a point in time analysis for when a student goes to college.  This means that the planner divides the saving contributions into 4 years of college costs.  Likewise, it assumes the cash contributions will only be made for the 4 years of college from monthly income and any sources other than savings by the student and their family.
Why do you ask about credit strength?
  • Some financing options to pay for college will consider the credit strength of the borrower and/or co-signer.  Most traditional aged college students have not built a credit history prior to entering college.  This means that most will need a creditworthy co-signer in order to borrow Private Student Loans.  The majority of student borrowers use parents or other relatives as co-signers.  Applying for private loans with a creditworthy cosigner may help you qualify and/or receive a lower interest rate. Your interest rate may be higher without a creditworthy cosigner.

Why do you ask who is borrowing? 
  • Some financing options are only available to specific borrowers.  For instance, the Federal Direct Student Loan can only be borrowed by a student and a Federal Parent PLUS Loan is available only to parents.
How do I estimate the value of my home?
  • Some users consider using services like Zillow to estimate the present market value of their home. 
How do I estimate the current debt of my home?
  • Consult your most recent mortgage statement to determine the amount.


Eligible Financing

Will I get the exact rate in the planner for the financing option that I selected?
  • The financing options displayed are estimates and provided for educational purposes only. This experience is not an application for a loan and any loan information included in these financing options is not an offer of a loan by any lender. If you apply and are approved for a loan, your lender will provide you with the monthly payment amounts, interest rate, and payment schedule that are applicable to your actual loan. These financing options assume no prepayment and repayment will go to full term. Please see repayment examples of each funding option for examples of the terms of representative loans.

Are there other financing options beyond those displayed?
  • Yes. This planner does not represent all financial services companies or products. We always encourage you to look for the most affordable options.

Why don’t I see a home equity loan option even though I added my home value information?
  • Our planner will only include a home equity loan if the entire amount of borrowing to cover the financing needed beyond the Federal Direct Student Loan.  Most lenders do not let people borrow up to the present market value of their home.  The lender will use a loan-to-value (LTV) assessment.  Many lenders typically will only approve up to 80% of the equity in a home as the credit limit for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or home equity loan.  For example, if your home value is $200,000 and you still owe $100,000, then the 80% LTV equals $80,000.

The College Value Factor™

What is the College Value Factor™?
  • The College Value Factor™ is an assessment tool to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) for a specific college based on personalized estimates of college costs, student debt, graduation rates and estimated earnings.  The College Value Factor™ is a proprietary algorithm developed by Quatromoney.  The algorithm rewards colleges where 75% or more students graduate in 4 years and career earnings above the national average.  In addition, the algorithm penalizes personalized Monthly Earnings Paid Toward Student Loans that exceed 20%. 

Where do you get data on the 4-year Graduation Rate for a specific college and the national averages?
Where do you get data on Estimated 1st Year Earnings for a specific college?
  • Estimated First Year Earnings comes from the most recent federal US Department of Education’s College Scorecard on students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry. Only data from students who received federal financial aid are included.
Where do you get data on national Estimated 1st Year Earnings?
  • The national average of Estimated 1st Year Earnings comes from National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)'s Salary Survey report.
Whose debt is included in the Estimated Monthly Payments After Graduation on the College Value Factor™ information?
  • Only the estimated student debt is included in the College Value Factor™.
Where do you get data on the national average of Estimated Monthly Payments After Graduation?
How do you calculate the Monthly Earnings Paid Toward Student Loans?
  • This percentage is calculated based on the student’s estimated monthly after graduation payment to estimated first year earnings. Student finance experts use the rule of thumb to try to keep your monthly student loan payment around 10% of your earnings. (In fact, the federal government uses a 10% threshold to determine eligibility for income-based repayment.) If the percentage of monthly earnings paid toward student loans exceeds 20%, then college graduates may struggle to pay for other monthly budget items like housing, transportation, food, etc.
Where do you get data on Estimated 30 Year Earning for a specific college?

Next Steps

Why are the next steps different depending on the year that I intend to enroll in college?
  • To help personalize the planning experience, the next step action items are dependent on the timeline of when college will start.  If a user is a high school senior starting in college in fall, then the list will have links to the financing option that were selected as well as other helpful next steps like complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile and scholarship search information.  If the user has a longer timeline for a newborn to preschooler, then next steps will point to financial planning, college savings, life insurance, and monitoring credit.