Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Assessing the Accuracy, Use, and Framing of College Net Pricing Information
by Anthony, Aaron M., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2018, 164; 13819961
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I explore questions relating to estimating and framing college net pricing. In the first study, I measure variation in actual grant aid awards for students predicted by the federal template Net Price Calculator (NPC) to receive identical aid awards. Estimated aid derived from the federal template NPC accounts for 85 percent of the variation in actual grant aid received by students. I then consider simple modifications to the federal template NPC that explain more than half of the initially unexplained variation in actual grant aid awards across all institutional sectors. The second study explores perceptions of college net pricing and the resources families use to learn about college expenses. Students and parents show substantial variation in their perceptions of college price and ability to accurately estimate likely college expenses, even when prompted to seek pricing information online. While most participants were able to estimate net price within 25 percent of NPC estimates, others were inaccurate by as much as 250 percent, or nearly $30,000. I then propose possible explanations for more or less accurate estimates that consider parent education, student grade level, previous NPC use, and online college pricing search strategies. In the third study, I explore the potential for shifts in college spending preferences when equivalent college cost scenarios are framed in different ways. I exploit disparities between net price and total price to randomly present participants with one of three framing conditions: gain, loss, and full information. Participants are between five and six percentage points more likely to choose a college beyond their stated price preference when cost information is framed in such a way that emphasizes financial grant aid received as opposed to remaining costs to be paid or full cost information. The results of these studies suggest that clearly structured, simple to use informational resources can accurately and effectively communicate important college information. However, simply making resources available without consideration of accessibility or relevance may be insufficient. Policymakers and other hosts of college information resources should also carefully consider the ways that the presentation of college information might influence students’ decisions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Page, Lindsay C.
Commitee: Linardi, Sera, Page, Lindsay C., Russell, Jennifer, Shafiq, M. Najeeb
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Administrative and Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 80/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education finance, Education Policy, Higher education
Keywords: Aid awards, College net pricing, Net Price Calculator
Publication Number: 13819961
ISBN: 978-0-438-77708-8
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