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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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University launches aid calculator online

The University added an online cost calculator to its website Tuesday to allow prospective students to estimate their individual costs of attendance before financial aid is formally awarded.

The calculator will consider applicants’ specific financial circumstances to predict their out-of-pocket expenses more accurately than a sticker price can, a representative from the Department of Education said.

“[It is] a lot more specific to the individual’s case. [Students] can input their individual information and get a more unique estimate of their families’ required payment,” Sara Gast, a spokesperson from the Department of Education, said.

The 2008 law, which reauthorized and updated the Higher Education Act of 1965, provided funding for master’s degrees at historically black colleges and universities and postbaccalaureate opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Largely supported in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed into law by former President George W. Bush, it also outlined the protocol for loan eligibility, grant distribution and financial aid for active military students. The Higher Education Opportunity Act also requires that all Title IV postsecondary institutions install a calculator by Oct. 29.

Officials from the Department of Education and the University emphasized that estimates from the calculator are not guarantees of financial aid awards.

“The concern schools have is the information will only be as good as the data provided by the family, and the results will be based on policies and procedures that are, at best one year old, more than likely two to three years old,” Associate Vice President for Financial Assistance Dan Small said.

The potential impact of the calculator on applications is difficult to predict, Small said.

“We feel this may be an opportunity for GW to highlight its fixed tuition [and] guaranteed aid policy,” he said. “The hope of the calculator is to provide families with information on the amount it will cost them to attend a particular school.”

The University and hundreds of other schools opted to install the digital calculator provided by the College Board, which includes a detailed five-page questionnaire.

The calculator considers a student’s dependency status, expected family contribution and tax status to compute potential need-based aid. Potential merit aid, grants, Federal Work Study and tuition payment plans are not reflected in the University’s calculator results, although some institutions’ calculators include these forms of aid.

“It provided us flexibility to use the most recent data, and the questions would be similar to those asked on the aid application,” Small said.

A 12-month subscription to the College Board’s calculator costs between $3,500 and $5,500, according to the organization’s website. Small declined to say how much the University paid.

He previously said a customized calculator could cost up to $70,000 to develop.

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