Get to the Bottom Line of College Costs: HESC’s Free Comparison Tool Gets You There

Students receiving their college financial aid award letters can compare differences, calculate net costs and estimate total cost of college education, including student loan repayment scenarios

College acceptance letters are arriving to excited college-bound students almost daily and financial aid award letters follow right behind. The award letter contains important information about the financial aid package being offered by the college. Some colleges include a College Shopping Sheet to outline the award; if the student applied to multiple colleges, there may not be a standard award letter, making it difficult to compare and get to the bottom line cost for each college.

The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) offers a Financial Aid Award Letter Comparison Tool to help students and families interpret their award letters and learn the net cost of each college before making their final decision. HESC is the State’s student financial aid agency that helps people pay for college.

Without a full understanding of the total costs, including which aid is grants that don’t have to be paid back and which are student loans, it may be difficult to choose the best college at an affordable price for the family. The tool allows students and families to see side-by-side comparisons, highlights net costs and estimates the full two or four-year cost of each college.

Students can be informed about loan costs up front, before they commit to a college or career path.  The comparison tool provides details about the student’s total estimated debt at each institution, approximate monthly loan payments, and the minimum annual salary to afford these payments.

If student loans are offered in the award letter, the bottom line report will also recommend the potential income needed to comfortably pay student loans after graduation based on the occupation being pursued by the user. HESC uses current data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook to provide median salary estimates for the selected occupation.

The comparison tool not only helps the student and family to understand the impact of borrowing as it relates to their current and future circumstances, it encourages students to consider their major field of study carefully so they can make adjustments in either career or college choices, if necessary.

The tool’s flexibility allows students and families to make adjustments to the input data to change occupation choices or include additional out-of-pocket money that will help them review different scenarios and make a fully informed decision about their college and field of study.

The tool, available at, is free to use and no personal data is collected or saved.

About HESC:
HESC is New York State’s student financial aid agency that helps people pay for college and a national leader in providing need based grant and scholarship award money to college-going students. At HESC’s core are programs like the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), numerous state scholarships, federal college access grants and a highly successful College Savings program. HESC puts college within the reach of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year through programs like these and through the guidance it provides to students, families and counselors. In 2013-14, HESC helped more than 388,000 students achieve their college dreams by providing more than $984 million in grants, scholarships and loan forgiveness benefits, including $935.5 million awarded through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).