College Finance Planning and Compare Software

Is there anyone who can recommend a high-caliber, for $, website or platform that parents can use to explore and compare the estimated tuition and financial aid packages that various universities might offer?  We want to be able to input, say, 4 or 5 likely candidate schools to apply for, and have the software come back and compare each one with estimates of total tuition and housing cost, as well as estimates of the FAFSA grants/loans and any other packages that might be offered from the school.  The point is to surface to the top the schools most likely to offer the best overall package.

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Your question inspired me to do some googling and I found htis site: There's a free version and a paid version (natch). No idea how good it is, but it is the kind of question that tech is designed to help answer.

As the parent of a rising senior I can relate - I've thrown myself into every free seminar, explanatory website and book you can imagine in the past year. Every college and university participating in federal financial aid is required to provide a 'net price calculator' on their website - I've included one as an example from UC Berkeley here: Estimate Your Financial Aid - Financial Aid & Scholarships ( You will likely be able to find this on the site of each of the colleges your student is applying to. You input some basic financial data and it will give you a cost estimate. There is no way to figure out how much merit aid your student MIGHT receive, but at least this gives you an idea of how much each college thinks YOU will be able to pay. Many schools list different scholarships or aid they may offer, but you will never know if your student will be offered that aid until they've been accepted. Depending on your income level there are only so many loan packages you or your student may qualify for. There are many excellent free webinars being offered (some recently via BPN) that can explain more, but hopefully this has been a helpful start. Just check out the BPN archives for some names (or google 'college financing free seminar"), there was one advertised just a few weeks ago. Basically, if you are earning anywhere near the median income for the Bay Area and own a home (and/or other RE) you likely will not qualify for any break on tuition. The FAFSA does NOT take into account the cost of living in certain areas, sadly, though owning your home won't necessarily count against you on it (unless the school is looking at the CSS form - a different financial aid tool). Your best bet is make sure your student does their best on the applications to schools they want to go to, and have an honest conversation with them prior to decisions about what your family can reasonably afford. Bottom line, if you make a decent amount of money it's going to be expensive, no way around it. Private colleges have more money on hand to offer aid than public, but your student needs to be a standout for them to offer it. College costs have skyrocketed and there is much controversy about whether students (and parents) are really getting what they pay for. Worst of all, everyone is paying a different price. An excellent read is "The Price You Pay For College" by Ron Lieber. I wish I had better news.....