Haley Chitty, spokesman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, says the majority of schools, if they don't go through a third-party vendor, will modify the federal template to meet their institution's needs. "The Department of Education's template is very bare bones, to the point of not being too useful to institutions without some customization."
In a study done earlier this year of 16 schools using the calculators, the Institute for College Access & Success concluded that there is a "great deal of variation in how easy these calculators would be for prospective college students and their families to find, use, and understand."
While prominently featured on some institutions websites with understandable results, the report indicates calculators at other schools were "difficult to locate, required detailed financial information that students and parents would have to look up, and presented results in ways that could lead users to believe that a particular college is more affordable than it likely would be for them."
Boyer says feedback from users indicates the information provided is helpful when comparing Williams to other Ivy League schools. "I haven't had a large number of people question what the calculator is doing," he says.
Asbury believes UNC's calculator has become one of the school's more useful devices for information. "We could not possibly provide this number of award estimates to this large number of students without this tool."
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