Clear College Cost Estimates Elude Student Parents

Affordability is the main barrier to completion for California’s estimated 486,454* student parents. Completing a meaningful postsecondary credential could help many student parents break the cycle of poverty, accelerate their careers, strengthen the state’s economy, and create more vibrant communities.

A new report released today by California Competes details how net price calculators, tools designed to help students budget for college, have inefficiencies that perpetuate affordability issues. Because of this, net price calculators can prevent student parents from adequately planning for their total cost of college, which is likely to include additional life costs that are not factored in the calculators’ estimates. Our research has found that once some of these costs are accounted for, student parents pay an annual premium of $7,592 more per child than non-parenting students attending college. Even attending community college, which may seem like a cheaper alternative to a four-year institution, does not cut costs for student parents—in fact, it costs more.

In Clarifying the True Cost of College for Student Parents, California Competes shows how increasing net price calculators’ transparency and informing students of alternative financing options could help student parents better plan, and consequently complete, their postsecondary education.

Read the brief.

*Institute for Women’s Policy Research. (2019). Investing in single mothers’ higher education in California: Costs and benefits to individuals, families, and society. Retrieved from:

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