Williams College and the University of Virginia have announced that they have implemented My inTuition. The groundbreaking tool, which was developed by Wellesley and first launched in 2013, is the quickest college cost calculator available to the public.
Each school's version of the calculator asks just six basic financial questions before providing a personalized estimate of what it would cost an individual to attend. The calculator takes the average user about three minutes to complete and provides a breakdown of the estimated cost paid by the family, work-study, and loan estimates, in addition to grant assistance provided by the institution.
"All families benefit from having an earlier understanding of cost in the college selection process, but this tool can be particularly helpful to students from low- and middle- income families who may have a misconception that we, and many other elite colleges, are not affordable," said Joy St. John, Wellesley's Dean of Admission and Financial Aid. "With Williams' and U.Va.'s adoption of the tool, we hope that more students and families will realize that top colleges are within reach for any qualified student, regardless of their financial situation."
Williams College Provost William Dudley said, "We want every student to know what assistance is available, and that cost should not be a barrier to attendance. We hope that the calculator, which quickly generates accurate, personalized price estimates, will encourage all qualified students to apply."
University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan said, "While not a replacement for the Net Price Calculator, the My inTuition college cost estimator is a speedy tool that prospective students can use to estimate quickly the affordability of the college or university in which they are interested. It demonstrates true estimated cost, helping to avoid the possibility of losing prospective students due to misperceptions about cost."
Wellesley launched My inTuition in 2013 to give students a simple, accurate, and personalized estimate of their expected cost to attend the College. The tool has provided more than 42,000 estimates since its initial release in 2013--more than eight times the number provided by the Net Price Calculator, which is also available on Wellesley's website, in the same time period.
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 have been in place for some time, they remain difficult to use, requiring answers to 40 or more questions and access to detailed financial records.
Wellesley's Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics Phillip B. Levine, who invented My inTuition, said, "I created My inTuition and customized the tool for Williams and U.Va. because of the clear need to better communicate what college actually costs. How can we expect students to ever consider attending a college when they have no idea what it costs? The personalized estimates that My inTuition provides helps address that problem."
In a 2014 survey of prospective applicants to Wellesley indicate that 85 percent of individuals with family incomes below $100,000 report that My inTuition was easy to use and 75 percent said it was helpful. In response to a qualitative survey conducted in August 2015, one student wrote: "My inTuition was the first proof I got of what was up to that point an unconfirmed myth that certain schools will cover 100% of your financial need." Another wrote: "I wouldn't have applied at all had My inTuition not given me hope that it could be affordable."
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach '95, Director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, expects that greater adoption of the tool could help increase college access for low-income students. "Lack of individually tailored information on the expected cost of college after financial aid is a significant hindrance for students weighing their college options," she said. "My inTuition provides greater clarity on expected true costs, and I expect it will increase access for students from less affluent families, as well as broaden the diversity of the colleges that adopt the tool."
Read The New York Times' story, "A Simpler Financial-Aid Calculator Spreads."