How to Interpret the affordability estimator graph

The Affordability Estimator allows you to see how the most common sources of funds used by students and their families to pay for college add up, and how far they go toward the full bill. 

General

The graphs are always drawn for groups of colleges and universities in a particular state, not for individual campuses.  An example is the regional universities in the State of Washington.

The axes

The vertical axis (y-axis) of the graph shows the amount of money required to pay for one year of college.  The graph shows zero at the top of the black band at the bottom of the graph and the "gross" cost of attending one year of college is shown at the top of the vertical axis.  In the example illustration above the "gross" cost of attending one year of college is estimated to be $21,000.  This includes tuition and mandatory fees, $7,790 in the example above, indicated with the horizontal line that is about half way up the graph.  The gross cost also includes the non-tuition costs including room and board, transportation, books and supplies, and some personal expenses that are represented from the tuition and fees line up to the very top of the graph.

The horizontal axis (x-axis) represents students' families' incomes as a percentage of the particular state's median family income.  

The numbers indicated on the horizontal and vertical axes correspond to the state, year and collection of institutions that are depicted in the individual graph being displayed.

The funding components

The various colored regions on the graph represent funding from the most common sources available to students:

  • Funds from a student's or family's college savings
  • Funds from parents' or other providers' current income 
  • Funds from Federal Pell Grants
  • Funds from State funded financial aid programs(s)
  • Funds from the colleges' or universities' financial aid programs
  • Funds from the student's own job
  • Funds presumably from debt

In addition, the black band at the bottom of the graph represents the funding provided directly to the colleges and universities from the state.

Interpreting the graph

The affordability graph is intended to provide a big picture view of affordability by showing how the funding components are combined to pay for a student to attend college and how the components contribute in different way depending on students' family income levels.