The U.S. Department of Education (Department) challenges high school and college students to help get information to their peers about how much it costs to go to college. This challenge asks students to create short videos that will inform students and families of a new resource that makes it easier to calculate how much it might cost to go to a particular college. On October 29, 2011, all colleges and universities were required by law to provide a “net price calculator” on their websites. This is one of several Department initiatives to make the price of college more transparent and help students and families make informed decisions about investing in postsecondary education. “Net price” is a new and important piece of information about college costs; it helps students and families estimate what it would likely cost to attend a college after accounting for grants and scholarships that don’t need to be repaid. Unfortunately, too few people know what “net price” means, and where to find a college’s net price calculator on its website, or how to use net price – along with other information – when comparison shopping for higher education. Help us get the word out!

What is Net Price?

Net Price is the amount that a student pays to attend an institution in a single academic year AFTER subtracting scholarships and grants the student receives. Scholarships and grants are forms of financial aid that a student does not have to pay back. Typically, the only information available to prospective students and their families is the published tuition and fees – the “sticker price” – to attend that institution each year. But net price gets beyond the sticker price to see how grant and scholarship aid can affect the price students pay to go to a college before taking out any loans. This information will give students and their families a better idea of likely costs so they can make more informed decisions about where to enroll and how much to borrow. The net price doesn’t just include tuition and fees. It also includes estimates for living expenses, books and supplies, and other related expenses that students are likely to incur while pursuing their education.

What is a Net Price Calculator?

A net price calculator is an online application on an college’s or university’s website that allows prospective students to enter information about themselves to find out what students like them paid to attend the institution in the previous year, after considering grants and scholarship aid. While the calculator won’t be able to tell an individual student exactly how much he or she will have to pay to attend that school, it will give students a better idea about how financial aid might affect what a student might actually pay and have to borrow to go to that institution.

For an example of a net price calculator, go to:

For more information about the net price calculator requirements, go to:

What’s the Challenge?

Net price provides very important consumer information to prospective students and their families, but few students and families know to ask colleges and universities about their net prices or to look for a net price calculator on an institution’s website. The Department of Education is announcing a prize challenge for the creation of a short (approximately 60-180 second) creative and informational video that tells viewers about what net price calculators are, why they are important, and where viewers will find them – both on college and university websites and also on the Department’s college search website, College Navigator (

Hackathon Sponsors


$4,500 in prizes

Winning Videos (3)

Three cash prizes will be awarded in the amount of $1,500 each to the contestants who develop the top three winning videos. The Department of Education will post the videos to College Navigator, and other websites, to help get the word out about net price calculators.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

Contestants must submit their video between January 1 and January 31, 2012. Contestants may be students or groups of students. Contestants must be enrolled in a high school, college or university in the 2011-2012 academic year to participate.

Groups of more than one individual or entity must submit a contest entry through a single designated individual (Contestant) within the group. Only one video may be submitted per Contestant.

Each Contestant must complete and submit the required information on for the video he or she enters into the contest.

Each Contestant must upload their video) and add the link to their specific video on the submission form. Each video must also check the box that enables closed captioning.


Panel of Five Independent Judges

Panel of Five Independent Judges

Judging Criteria

  • Content
    50 points -- How well does the entry demonstrate, describe or portray what the high school students and parents need to know about what net price is and how to find and use net price calculators?
  • Creativity
    30 points -- How well does the entry provide the information in an innovative and imaginative way that will draw the attention of students and parents?
  • Technique
    20 points -- How well does the entry demonstrate excellence and quality in technical execution?
  • Overall Presentation
    5 points -- Does the overall review of the video presentation cover all three of the criteria needed to make a successful presentation, and it’s clearly a demonstration of the Net Price Calculator.

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