College Costs Estimator Program

The College Costs Estimator Program is designed to help families understand college can be affordable. We do this by empowering them with the necessary information and linking them with the resources they need to take the next steps. We focus our work with students and families on this critical issue earlier than most college-related programs to avoid "surprises" in the spring of the senior year.

We consider each and every student and family we touch through our programming to be a "client" of the National Center for College Costs. In order to reach large numbers of students and their families, our primary programming work is done utilizing a time and cost-effective group workshop format. We don't take individual clients for a fee and have been able to maintain our core focus largely due to the financial support of philanthropic foundations, school systems, colleges, and businesses. Their support enables many families to receive programs and services they otherwise would not be able to afford and which many would not receive elsewhere.

Parent feedback from anonymous surveys completed by more than 20,000 parents:

"The whole program was very helpful, a real eye-opener. I have a son already in college and wish I had this information sooner!"

"I did not expect we would be able to consider anything but the least expensive colleges because of our income. I learned it depends on many factors. I will provide and encourage my son to explore several colleges."


The Individual Family Analysis

As part of the program, interested families fill out an online College Costs Estimator (CCE) that captures household information, both financial and demographic. This information is then run through our data system where it is analyzed according to the current Federal Methodology, which is used to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid. It is the same formula that most states and colleges typically use in whole or in part to determine their need-based eligibility. Confidential individual family reports are then prepared for each family based upon this analysis. A client family can choose to have the report sent electronically, by mail, or brought to a CCE workshop if one is available in their area. 

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The Group Workshop

Complementing and building upon the individual family reports, the program often offers a group workshop. Each workshop typically provides families with:

  • An outline of the financial aid process and the Federal Methodology;
  • Tips on how to maximize financial aid opportunities;
  • Information on how to approach colleges, including the key financial aid questions to ask colleges and universities across the country;
  • Information on college saving strategies; and
  • Current cost information for home state colleges and universities.

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On-Going Support Via a Toll-Free Hotline and Email

Perhaps the most unique feature of the College Costs Estimator service is that it is not a one-stop program for families. Those who participate as a result of a grant or other funding in their community have staff at the NCCC available to them via a toll-free phone line and email in the months and years ahead as they continue to have college selection, admission, and financial aid questions. The costs involved with this subsequent contact and assistance is built into the initial contracts with foundations, schools, and businesses that support the front-end programming and workshops. Therefore, the ongoing support is free to families. There are no hidden costs or additional fees. In fact, families never pay fees at all, as we try to find grants and other local funding sources to cover the costs of the programming.

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Important Program Notes

  • The Individual information provided by client families is kept strictly confidential and is not shared with or used by anyone outside the National Center for College Costs, unless otherwise requested/authorized in writing by the family.
  • NCCC does not guarantee that the information provided in the individual family analyses will match that of the U.S. Department of Education, state grant agencies, individual colleges and universities, and/or any other entity. The information provided is intended for families' educational benefit only and NCCC does not make any guarantees regarding the financial aid eligibility of the students. Students must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for financial aid. Because the rules governing financial aid change regularly, as do family finances, families should be aware that such changes may affect students' eligibility for financial aid and as such should review their situations regularly.
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College Costs Estimator (CCE) Form

The CCE is the tool where students and families will enter their information and generate an individualized report. It not only has skip logic in order to minimize the amount of questions asked, but it also has tons of tips and hints to help with the data entry. To see the CCE form or to start filling one out today, start here.

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