College degrees come with two price tags: the sticker price and the net price.
A new free tool from the CommunityAmerica teen advisory board is being celebrated for helping students solve the complicated equation that separates the two — as well as determine which college options are financially realistic.
“[With] some of the more elite schools, the sticker price was way out of our price range, and then we didn’t know about the financial aid options until later,” said Logan Card, a 2018 Park Hill South High School graduate now headed to Washington University. “Certainly at the beginning it was really really daunting trying to figure out how to pay for it.”
Developed with its Kansas City-based Teen Advisory Innovation Board, CommunityAmerica’s College Cost and Compare Calculator is the first and only application that enables students and their families to compare the true cost of up to 6,000 schools in a single click, according to the credit union. It has been accessed by more than 10,000 families since its launch in April.
The National Parenting Product Awards recently announced that the calculator received one of its coveted national awards for 2018. NAPPA’s panel of experts and independent judges test and select the best music, toys, apps, games, books, baby gear and other family must-haves for the honors, according to CommunityAmerica. Brands like Amazon, American Girl and Crayola were among the other winners.
“Discovering the true cost of college has historically been a ‘best-kept’ secret,” said Anita Bajaj Newton, chief innovation officer at CommunityAmerica. “The Cost and Compare Calculator is a simple, easy-to-use tool that offers radical transparency for young adults and their families.”
A product of the credit union’s Innovation Lab, the calculator project was a natural fit for the teen advisory group, Newton said.
“The charter [for the program] was really simple: We wanted them to help us create products and services they would actually use and, hopefully in the process, would make their lives easier,” she said.
Through the course of the teen group’s work, research showed the groups of parents and students who often know the least about the cost of college are the ones who need it the most: low-income and middle-class families, as well as minorities and teenagers, explained Emily Fey, an incoming senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, in a promotional video for the project.
Check out more on the teen advisory board’s work on the cost calculator in the video below.