About Tuition Tracker

The 2018 Tuition Tracker online tool, which was updated and relaunched on Oct. 18, 2018, makes it easy to look up and compare the annual prices charged by more than 3,800 public, private and for-profit colleges and universities.

The tool shows each college’s “sticker price,” which is the undiscounted price a typical full-time student would pay for an academic year’s worth of tuition, fees, books, room, food, travel and miscellaneous expenses. About 37 percent of undergraduates receive no grants or scholarships, and thus pay their college’s full “sticker price,” according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

To better show college affordability for the 63 percent of students who receive grants or scholarships that defray their expenses, the tool also shows the “net prices” paid at each school by full-time freshmen from various income groups. The net price is calculated by subtracting the total of a student’s grants and scholarships from the school’s sticker price  - including living costs. That remaining expense is typically covered by savings, loans, and/or earnings. Students can also reduce their net prices by reducing their living costs (by, for example, living at home and commuting.)  

The updated Tuition Tracker tool also provides important information about the value of each school’s educational services. It shows, for example, graduation rates broken down by race and ethnicity. Graduation rates are important because while even a few college courses can improve a student’s odds in the job market, research shows that those who have graduated with bachelor’s degrees appear to receive preference from employers.

Due to the long data collection and quality-control procedures, 2015-16 net price data is the most recently available in Tuition Tracker.

The net price data represents only those students who receive federal financial financial aid such as Pell Grants or federal student loans. Because students from lower income groups are more likely to receive federal student aid, the net price data for those groups represent a higher percentage of those cohorts than of higher income groups.

The data in the Tuition Tracker comes from information reported by each college via the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The tool is free to the public.

It was created by teams from The Hechinger Report, the Education Writers Association and the Dallas Morning News. 

The Tuition Tracker teams included: Dana Amihere and John Hancock of the Dallas Morning News, Sarah Butrymowicz, Peter D’Amato and Jon Marcus of The Hechinger Report, and Kim Clark of the EWA.

EWA’s work on the tool was supported by a grant from the Lumina Foundation.

This post was updated on Oct. 18, 2018.