Many Colleges’ Net-Price Calculators Are Still Hard to Use, Report Says

Nearly all colleges that receive federal student aid have been required to publish net-price calculators on their Web sites since last October, but a year after that rule took effect, many of those online tools are still difficult to use, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Institute for College Access & Success.

The report, “Adding It All Up 2012: Are College Net Price Calculators Easy to Find, Use, and Compare?,” examined 50 randomly selected colleges’ calculators and found that nearly a quarter of the colleges lacked a link to a calculator on their financial-aid Web sites. Three had no calculators at all. The number of questions each calculator asked also varied greatly, from eight to about 70.

The report offers a series of suggestions to improve the tools that echo those proposed in the group’s early look at net-price calculators. The report recommends that colleges limit the number of questions and keep them simple.

The deficiencies outlined in the report could explain why, in a recently released poll of students, only 35 percent of college-bound high-school seniors said they had used a net-price calculator as they considered colleges.

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