Comparing college tuition costs can get complicated when financial aid packages are involved. There is not a standardized award letter, which can make comparing costs difficult. Understanding what your student loans, grants and scholarships cover will be key when you compare the costs of college. Also, take into account other costs such as housing and textbooks. A variety of resources make comparing college tuition costs easy.
Evaluate your financial award letters from each school by comparing the cost of attendance (COA) listed. Schools might define and itemize the COA differently. Find out whether the award letter covers all costs of attendance including tuition, school fees, housing and books.
Compare the types of financial support offered in each aid package. Grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid while student loans do. A school offering money in grants will be cheaper than one offering more money in loans.
Find out the interest rate and payback time of each student loan. You can ask your university's financial aid office for information, or go to the U.S. Department of Education's website. Go to "Student Aid on the Web" for information on federal student loans.
Consider the cost of living in the school's location. If your award package doesn't cover room and board, you will pay for rent and groceries. Use an online cost-of-living calculator to compare cities. Check out Bankrate's, which itemizes rent, groceries and clothing.
Use online tools such as Sallie Mae's education investment planner to compare college tuition costs. The planner is free and will help compare tuition costs and payment plans.
If you want figures on just college tuition, check the university's website or look in US News & World Report's College Rankings edition. US News & World Report neatly lists tuition and fees for easy comparison.
Approach hiring a financial adviser with care. Most of the information you need to compare college tuition costs and payment plans can be found for free-either online or at your school's financial aid office.
Megan Jungwi is a freelance writer currently living in New York City. She recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a major in political science and a minor in environmental studies. Jungwi specializes in writing for the web and can be found at Demand Studios, Suite101.com, and on Elance.com.