Wellesley’s Fast, Free Tool to Help Students and Parents Estimate College Costs Goes National

Wellesley’s Fast, Free Tool to Help Students and Parents Estimate College Costs Goes National

April 21, 2017
MyinTuition
Credit:
Yoon S. Byun

The New York Times recently spotlighted MyinTuition, the fast, user-friendly tool that estimates college costs and was developed by Wellesley’s Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics Phillip B. Levine. The tool is now available on the websites of 15 selective institutions located in every region of the United States, up from just three when it was introduced in 2013.

In his opinion piece, the Times’ David Leonhardt writes that MyinTuition dispels the notion that costs at schools like Wellesley are too high for many lower-income and middle-class families, even if their high-achieving, college-bound students are qualified for admission.

In many cases, that perception may not be true, but if parents don’t examine the numbers closely, they won’t find out. “Net price calculators” offered by colleges and universities are time-consuming and require families to answer many detailed financial questions. While the net price calculators can provide a clarity on college costs, parents are not always inclined to use or finish them and instead look for alternatives at schools they presume are less costly. But in doing so, they may not learn about financial aid resources offered by schools with higher sticker costs.

As the Times article points out, MyinTuition is free, quick, and can be used anonymously. Parents must answer just six questions on topics including home ownership status and annual income; the three-minute process is much faster—and more accurate—than that required by the typical net price calculator.

“This helps bring more students from low- and moderate-income families into the stream of students flowing into the top schools in this country,” said Levine. “It takes down a formidable barrier.”

The Times piece used Rice University, a participating school, as an example. After the writer entered information for an average homeowner with $75,000 in income and some savings, the tool found that the family would have to spend $18,500 a year on tuition and the student would receive $42,900 in financial aid. While that tuition sum is still high, it is outweighed by the value of a Rice education, the article said.

In 2013, the University of Virginia and Williams College joined Wellesley in MyinTuition’s launch. Since then, applications at the three schools have increased, with about 90 percent of that jump coming from students planning to apply for financial aid. The additional schools that have adopted MyinTuition, among them Amherst, Carleton, and Pomona colleges, hope to see similar results. Levine said he expects more schools to offer the tool in the coming months.

One day after MyinTuition’s Wednesday launch, 6,000 users from every state in the country requested over 12,000 estimates, according to Levine. The average time to complete the process was three minutes. Ten additional schools have requested information about using MyinTuition.

Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley, said MyinTuition has the potential to change how students and families approach the college selection process. “We want every family, no matter their socioeconomic status, to look at a school like Wellesley and see possibility and opportunity, not barriers,” she said. “MyinTuition’s story is really about all the students who find their way into colleges they might have never considered, and who reach their fullest potential because of it.”