Of course, tuition costs will change during a family’s planning period. Over the past decade, net college costs have risen by an average annual rate of 1.75% for private and 2.28% for public schools. (That compares to an average annual sticker price increase of 2.81% and 2.37% for private and public colleges, respectively.) 1 Net pricing estimates may act as a better gauge for many families. However, wealthier families, particularly those whose EFC—or, starting in the 2024-2025 school year, student aid index (SAI)— may disqualify them from need-based financial aid, could benefit from an analysis built on the published cost of attendance.
There is little doubt that the college aid equation is complex and presents challenges for families at any stage of the financial planning process. Still, there are considerations, tools, and estimates that can help a family home in on an appropriate net pricing target, which in turn helps them create a plan that is more likely to result in a college nest egg of an appropriate size.