September 18, 2013


Clueless About What a Top, Private College Will Really Cost? New Tool Gives Users a Quick and Realistic Estimate of Their College Costs—and the Results Will Surprise You

WELLESLEY, Mass. – A new tool released today by Wellesley College promises to be a game-changer in the higher education marketplace by bringing clarity to the college-shopping process. It also has the potential to attract more people to college.

Since 2011, the federal government has mandated that colleges and universities introduce a net price calculator to provide prospective students with an estimate of the cost of attending the institution. Although these calculators are now in place, they are often difficult to use, requiring answers to 40 or more questions and access to detailed financial records. My inTuition: Wellesley’s Quick College Cost Estimator asks just six straightforward financial questions before providing a personalized estimate of an individual’s college costs at Wellesley. The tool is free and available online at

According to Jennifer Desjarlais, Wellesley’s Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, the purpose of the estimator is to communicate to prospective students quickly and easily the price they can expect to pay.

“Until now, there hasn’t been a quick or easy way for students and their families to estimate their actual college costs, particularly when you take financial aid into account. This has posed a problem because we know that so many qualified students rule out schools based on their sticker price. We developed the cost estimator for the beginning of the college search process, when students are first exploring their options.”

Desjarlais added that the tool demonstrates that private colleges can be an affordable option. Thanks to Wellesley’s generous financial aid, most individuals can expect to pay far less than the College’s annual comprehensive fee of $57,042—and for many students, Wellesley may be their most affordable option.

“Wellesley is invested in bringing into our classrooms smart, talented young women with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, regardless of their financial situation. However, we—and many other leading private colleges—don’t attract enough of these students, because there is a misperception that we’re not within reach. We hope that our Estimator spells out loud and clear: if you’re a good fit for Wellesley, our financial aid polices are designed to help you make it affordable."

According to the inventor of the tool, Wellesley economics professor Phillip B. Levine, Wellesley’s Quick College Cost Estimator will not only change the way people shop for college, but will also have the potential to attract even more people from a wider range of backgrounds to college, if it is adopted more broadly.

Levine said, “With almost every major purchase, like a house or a car, you can get a general sense of the kind of product you can afford, even when you’re just shopping around—not so with college. Most individuals don’t learn about the kind of financial aid package they would be qualified to receive until the very end of the process. We lose good students who never even bother to apply because of this, and we think this is a lost opportunity for us and for those students.  Past research shows that providing students early information about college costs makes them more likely to attend college, which increases lifetime earnings substantially.”

Levine, a former economic adviser to the Clinton administration who has studied economic mobility, explained, “The lack of clarity around this process contributes to the misperception that a top college education is reserved for the wealthy and the privileged—when the reality is that many elite colleges like Wellesley are committed to educating smart, talented students, regardless of their ability to pay. Our new tool is a big step forward in being more clear about our commitment to access, and we hope that other colleges will seriously consider adopting this approach.”

H. Kim Bottomly, President of Wellesley College, is proud that the tool was invented at Wellesley. “The Quick College Cost Estimator is just another example of the creativity of Wellesley faculty.  This particular innovation is exciting because it furthers our commitment to access and affordability,” she said.


Sofiya Cabalquinto, Wellesley College, 781-283-3321,
Anne Yu, Wellesley College, 781-283-3201,