NGPF has lots of great activities to help students discern the differences between sticker and net prices.  I stumbled across this simulation at Planet Money where you can type in the name of a college and you get a graph showing the “net price” for that college relative to “sticker price” and most importantly understand how the net price varies based on family income.

Here is an example using Stanford University:

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The key points in the article that accompany the simulation are:

  • There are significant differences between what students from low income and high income families pay, particularly at elite private universities.
  • The cost curve for public universities is flatter
  • At private universities, almost no one pays full price

It looks like your students can only do one college at a time but have them pull out some graph paper and chart their top 5 schools (be sure to include some state colleges) and see if they can distill the key points based on their analysis.  Enjoy!