Cost of attendance calculator

Prospective students and their family want to know, as close as possible, what the bottom line costs of attending a university are. Without this information it is impossible to financial prepare for the road ahead.

There are many factors to consider: tuition, housing, books, fees, etc. While efforts have been made to make tuition easy to understand, because there are so many variations it still has the potential of being confusing. Is the student in state or out of state, are they upper or lower division, are they per credit, flat rate, or above flat rate, are they EUP tuition, or graduate rate? Add to this the many options for housing. Students could live in a dorm, in an apartment, off campus, they could have one of many meal plans. Books for classes can range in price from $20 for one book to nearly $200 for another. Then there are fees (lots of them). There is a records initiation fee, a student assessment fee, an enrollment fee, an online course fee, a lab fee, a graduation fee. Here a fee, there a fee, every where a fee fee.

As you can see, figuring out the costs of attendance (so that a student and their family can draft a workable financial plan) is still challenging.

We know that online calculator tools for estimating the cost of a car, home, or computer purchase are helpful in determining overall costs. Knowing what the ballpark bottom line price will be helps us to plan ahead.

A WMU online cost of attendance calculator could simplify the process of figuring out how much college is going to cost. Prospective students and their family could be presented a series of questions and the total cost of attendance would be dynamically calculated. For those who didn’t want to spend the two minutes required to do the analysis could select one of several pre-built options and then customize the plan as needed for their own needs. If a student needed more specific detail, then we could provide links to the full information stored on tuition, residency, housing, and EUP pages. We could also guide students to discussions with institutional financial aid experts as a next step.

The technology and knowledge for building this is easily accessible. We could use PHP and or JavaScript to implement the calculator (we have several developers on campus who have the skills to do this), a prototype could be quickly developed in a week or less, the prototype could be reviewed by institutional leaders, revisions implemented, and a final calculator deployed.

Enabling students and their family to plan financially for attending college is amongst the most important factors that could influence their decision to attend our university, go somewhere else, or not attend college at all.

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